We Asked 13 Experts to Define Social Wellness

Social wellness means something different to everyone. The one thing we all do have in common is that social connectivity is something we need.

by | Aug 23, 2019

We live in a socially conscious world. By this I mean, we seek to improve the world—whether that be reducing our carbon footprint by carpooling with a friend to work or “paying-it-forward” in the Starbucks drive-thru line. Let’s face it: Caring is trendy right now. It’s gone mainstream. 

In the same vein, we care about our health too. We make lifestyle changes that encourage us to live a health-conscious lifestyle of balanced goodness. And while yoga classes, organic energy bars, the raved-about paleo diet, and other cultural manifestations are good for us, there’s an elephant in the room that we are dying to discuss.

Health is a term that’s expansive and, in some ways, immeasurable. It contains a million sub-definitions within it, so as it turns out, the number of squats you’re doing at the gym or the superfood smoothie you ordered this morning probably isn’t cutting it from a Wellness 3.0 perspective. If you’re hungry for guidance and direction, look no further–it begins here. 

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” We tend to focus on our physical and mental well-being, but what if our social well-being could profoundly impact the two? 

We asked wellness-oriented industry experts and podcast guests from Wellness 3.0 to define “social wellness” and what it means to them. After talking with experts, we learned that social wellness means something different to everyone. But the one thing we all do have in common is that social connectivity is something we need

1. Feeling a Sense of Belonging

“I think of social wellness as being a sense of interconnectedness and interdependence — kind of a sense of belonging . I talk a lot about wellness as a result of place attachment, and I think of it just as contentment, but when you add that ‘social’ on, I think it’s the relationships that we have that help us feel like part of a whole. It’s easy today to get really isolated. I want people to understand that feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself , feeling like you are interrelated in your community is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself — physically, emotionally, and mentally.”

Melody Warnick
Author, This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are

2. Having In-Person Connections

“It’s having connections with people of different ages, of different belief systems, and having them be in person as well as digitally because I think there is a growing number of people that have so many digital connections that they’re missing the in-person on some level.”

Joan Blades
Co-Founder, Living Room Conversations, MoveOn.org, & MomsRising.org

3. Consistent, Authentic Connections

“I look at social wellness as consistent, authentic connections with other human beings.”

Justin Kruger
Founder, Project Helping, Kyndub, Kyndkit

4. Commitment to Community 

“It requires a commitment to the importance of community, and the importance of showing up as a contributing, compassionate, empathic member of that community in ways that nourish self and nourish others. And I think if each of us committed to be a source of community support, that would do a great deal.”

Scott Kriens
Co-Founder, 1440 Multiversity

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5. It’s About Human Touch 

“I would say that everyone needs at least three people that if you went into the hospital you would tell or that if you were really sick you would tell or if you lost your job that you would tell. Three people that you’re in at least weekly contact with, that you have that level of closeness with.

Social wellness is also about human touch. Whether it’s a hug or a handshake or a slap on the back or a massage or actual romantic involvement, it doesn’t matter, but the human touch does matter and it’s good for the organism. And [it means] each of us should have at least five different social groups of people that we’re in contact with.“

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams
Author, BodyWise

6. Being More Understanding and Compassionate

“Living in a world that works for everyone, where people actually care enough about each other to operate their businesses from a triple bottom line, where people could be in a work situation and tell the truth and have people be supportive.

Being more understanding and more compassionate would be a good place to start.”

Arielle Ford
Author, The Soulmate Secret

7. Quality Relationships

“Social wellness is all about the quality of the relationships that we have.

For me, social wellness is when there is at least a baseline number of relationships — let’s say five — of trust and intimacy and connection, where I’d feel comfortable calling someone at 3 am being like, ‘Help something has happened. Please, can you come.’ And that they would come. And that those and other relationships in my life have a healthy, loving tenor to them.”

Casper ter Kuile
Ministry Innovation Fellow, Harvard Divinity School

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8. Cultural Acceptance

“A cultural acceptance of the idea of all of us showing up as ourselves, our authentic selves, and that being enough.”

Sue Heilbronner
Coach, Mentor, Leadership Camp & MergeLane

9. Greater Connection With Others

“I’d define social wellness as how we can be in greater connection with others in our community — connection one-to-one with the people we already know, connection one-to-many with the people we interact with on a daily basis, and connection to this greater sense of community. And to be intentional in that. It’s how we can be in connection to allow ourselves to be well, and to know that’s it’s not just on us ourselves to figure it out.”

Aaron Kahlow
CMO, iPEC Coaching

10. Being a Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself

“I think social wellness is the feeling of being woven into something bigger than yourself. Not subsumed by it so that you lose your identity, but integrated into it in a way that if you were missing, the thing would fall apart. A tightly woven community is a safety net for everyone.” 

Shaylyn Romney Garrett
Author, Project Reconnect, Weave: The Social Fabric Project

11. Being Comfortable and in Social Flow

“When I read the situation, and I’m comfortable no matter what, and I’m not interjecting unless I feel compelled to — being comfortable and in social flow is when I know I’m at my peak for social wellness. And it is a product of certain levels of experiences that I’ve had during that week and in multiple conversations. And it leads me to think, ‘I know I’m in a beautiful location or I know that I’m doing something that’s a little outside the box and that just drops me into that social flow.”

Jason Shepherd
Co-Founder, Archipelago, venUse, Atlas Real Estate Group, & DP Assets

12. Having Resilience

“The first word that comes to me is ‘resilience.’ We have a really low resilience culturally I find—with the more and more technology-centric practices, phones, the internet—calling is now annoying.

It feels like our obsession culturally with feeling good is a problem, and being in community is not about feeling good, exclusively. It’s actually about being relational, and I don’t feel good all the time. I’m pissed sometimes, I’m short sometimes, I’m really quiet sometimes, and if I’m by myself, well, nobody gets that, nobody sees that. There’s no depth there, there’s no realness.

So social wellness in my world has to do with, “How do we help people stay more relational more of the time?””

Jeff Howard
Somatic Psychotherapist , Three Leaves Counseling

13. Putting Down Technology

“Social wellness is something that people are struggling to find. Because of technology, whether that be social media or texting, face to face interaction does not occur as often. When it does occur – on a subway, at a ballgame, or waiting in line at the theater – people are on their devices instead of talking to each other. Social wellness does not come from being around a lot of people and feeling isolated at the same time.”

Debra Fine
Author, The Fine Art of Small Talk

So there you have it! Whether you’re busy catching up on work emails or binging watching the newest hit on Netflix, the busier we get, the less time we have to nurture the meaningful relationships that benefit us. This doesn’t mean you have to book yourself out for the week and force yourself to be a social butterfly, but we are social animals so the support systems we create and the overall sense of belonging we feel matters.

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