July is Social Wellness Month

Nicole Goben, MS, RD, CDN

7-5-16-socialwellnessDid you know that the health risks of being alone or isolated are similar to the risks associated with high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and obesity? While we are constantly reminded about healthy eating and exercising, another important aspect of our health is our social connections.

Research shows that those who have a strong social network:

•Tend to live longer

•Respond better to stress

•Have an enhanced immune system which increases the body’s ability to fight infectious diseases

What exactly does social wellness mean? It refers to maintaining meaningful relationships, giving and receiving social support, and contributing to the welfare of the community.

We all know that life gets busy and spending time with friends and family can fall by the wayside. July is the time to celebrate Social Wellness Month by nurturing your relationships:

•Make a concerted effort to reach out to your loved ones – call or write to far-away friends and make time to meet up with those close by.

•Learn to communicate effectively – being able to express your thoughts and feelings is an important part of any relationship.

•Know what your needs are – choose and nurture relationships that are positive for you.

While it is important to support existing relationships, you may also be looking to expand your social network. Some ways to grow relationships include:

•Joining a gym or workout group. You’ll be able to work on your physical and social wellness simultaneously!

•Finding others that share your hobbies, such as hiking, painting or joining a book club.

•Volunteering! By donating some of your time and work to an organization, you will not only feel good but may also meet people with similar passions.

Social Wellness Month is also a time to think of those that may not have a supportive social network. A majority of the clients Meals on Wheels serves live in social isolation due to loss of spouses and friends, or adult children moving away. A simple visit and friendly conversation from a Meals on Wheels volunteer may be the only social interaction that clients have in a day. So, in addition to improving your social wellness you can vastly improve that of your elderly community members by giving an hour out of your day! If you are interested in volunteering for Meals on Wheels, visit https://mealsonwheelswny.org/volunteer or call 822-2002 for more information.