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Increase Your Social Support
- Quantity—how many relationships a person has
- Quality—the type of relationships a person has and how satisfied a person is with those relationships
Health Benefits of Social Support
- Improve mental and emotional well-being
- Reduce stress and stress-related illnesses
- Improve recovery from illness
- Increase resistance to disease
- Emotional support
- Financial or material help
- Information and advice
Assess Your Social Support
Quantity of Relationships
How many close and/or dependable relationships do you have with people within one hour’s drive from your home? Consider relationships with:
- Do you spend time with someone who does not live with you?
- Do you talk to friends or relatives on the phone, via email, or text message?
- Do you go to meetings, social clubs, or other groups?
- Do you belong to online social networking sites or support groups for people with similar life situations?
Quality of Relationships
- Loved, or at least appreciated
- Able to talk about your deepest problems with at least some of them
- That you have a definite role or place
- Able to be yourself
How to Find Support
Work on Your Social Skills
- Overcome social fears or phobias
- Become more assertive
- Develop higher self-esteem
- Initiate and sustain conversations
- Deepen relationships through self-disclosure and empathy
Get Involved in Groups, Clubs, and Classes
- Local night schools, colleges, and universities may offer a variety of enrichment classes. You can learn a new skill, make new friends, and share your interests with others.
- Join a church or spiritual group. These can be great places to meet others. Many people also find that they feel less lonely and more connected when they develop their spiritual interests.
- Actively participate in a group. Speak up, take a key position, or volunteer to head up special events.
Get to Know Your Neighbors and Your Local Community
- Go for walks in your neighborhood. Say hello to neighbors and introduce yourself.
- Shop regularly at neighborhood stores and shops.
- Become a regular at a local park, beach, coffeehouse, museum, or sporting event.
- Consider hosting a block party. Send invitations to your neighbors.
- Start a community improvement project or run for office.
- Join a local health club or sports team.
Take Some Risks
- Talk to other people first and don’t let fear of rejection stop you. Look for something to start a conversation. Let your personality show.
- Don’t be afraid to respond to strangers who initiate conversation, as long as they don’t seem overly aggressive or dangerous.
- Your friends don’t have to be just like you. Consider friends of both sexes. Open yourself up to people from various age groups and cultures.
Join or Start a Support Group
Get a Roommate or Two
- Keep in touch on a regular basis—call, write, or get together.
- Work together on a project or hobby.
- Remember that different people are comfortable with different levels of intimacy. Gauge the level of intimacy that works for both parties.
- Share feelings, memories, dreams, disappointments, experiences, and humor.
- Listen and allow the other person to share.
- Give the relationship time to grow.
- Keep working on developing the relationship, even if it’s uncomfortable at times.
Get a Pet
American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/
Mental Health America http://www.nmha.org/
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca/
Mental Health Canada http://www.mentalhealthcanada.com/
How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx. Updated 2013. Accessed February 18, 2014.
Lyumbomirsky S, King L, Denier E. The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psych. 2005;131(6):803-855. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-1316803.pdf. Accessed February 18, 2014.
Review of research challenges assumption that success makes people happy: happiness may lead to success via positive emotions. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2005/12/success.aspx. Published December 18, 2005. Accessed February 18, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2014
- Update Date: 02/18/2014