Social Tuesday is all about…wait for it…being social. For those of you who might experience a little anxiety around social events or consider yourself to be ‘introverted’, being social doesn’t have to involve wining and dining or planning and pulling together a memorable party, so please read on, this is relevant to everyone.
A key component of strong mental health is social support, but what exactly does this mean? Really simply put, social support is a term used to describe interactions of people. Expanding on this, it is typically broken down into close relationships and social integration.
CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS: These are people who you can reliably turn to during times of need. The ones you would reach out to if you had a family emergency; call the doctor for you or even loan you some money if needed. Those who would sit by your side and genuinely listen if you are struggling with life’s challenges.
SOCIAL INTEGRATION: This means how much you interact with people as you move through your day. How many people you talk to – not just people you have close relationships with, but people in general. Do you talk to the person who makes your coffee in the morning? Do you talk to the person scanning your groceries at the grocery store? Do you speak with the Uber driver as you move from A to B?
As indicated in study after study, anecdotal report after anecdotal report, social support can be highly beneficial for your mental health.
Human contact has been shown to release a whole lot of feel good chemicals in the brain (e.g. oxytocin and dopamine) that foster trust, reduce stress, kill pain and induce pleasure. Again, this social interaction does not need to be out there and wild, it can be simple. Simply making eye contact with somebody, shaking hands with someone, an elbow pump or giving someone a high five can trigger a release of these chemicals that make you feel good about you!
But importantly, it’s not just about you. One of the most effective intervention strategies, one of the most effective ways to reduce distress in someone else, to help someone return to a healthy level of functioning, is social support. Not only is it one of the most effective, but oftentimes it is the easiest to provide. Simply being there for someone, offering your support as another human being is highly predictive of resilience.
UMM...I’m in bloody lockdown or quarantine you might be saying to yourself!! Sure, there may be some restrictions placed on how much face-to-face contact you can have with people at the moment due to COVID-19. Sitting all alone, isolated in quarantine sounds like a pretty depressive situation to find yourself in, but this does not mean that you cannot still provide or seek out social support.
It is physical distancing, not social isolation. Pick up the phone and give someone a call, send a nice text message or email to someone, Facetime people you haven’t seen in a while, Zoom call your work colleagues etc. etc. etc. – get creative when it comes to providing and accessing social support. After all, as just mentioned social support is one of the greatest predictors of human resilience, so now more than ever is an important time to get creative when it comes to providing and receiving social support, recognising the power of technology in this day and age.
What does this support look like?
Research, and a lot of it now suggests that there is no right thing to say to someone who might be struggling and as long as your friend, relative, workmate, whoever it is you are trying to help, sees you as supportive, then your mere presence as another human being and being there for them is likely enough.
This might seem overly simplistic but saying something like “Mate, I am here for you”; “If you ever need to talk, I am willing to listen”; “Would you like to grab a coffee and have a chat?”; “Let’s jump on a Facetime or Zoom call and talk things out” could be life changing, potentially lifesaving.
YOUR TUESDAY CHALLENGE!
(Click on challenges 2 and 3 for a step by step guide)
Social connections are so important and we encourage you to complete at least one of these challenges but welcome to try all three and keep those connections going today and every day.
You just never know who you'll help, it could even be yourself.