Health Benefits of A Social Support Network
Research has shown that a lack of social support (isolation) can negatively impact your mental health by contributing to an ongoing state of chronic stress, and ultimately affecting your immune system. And in fact minimal social interaction, 10 minutes a day, can actually improve cognitive functioning, according to a study by University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).
What is a social support network?
A social support network is a group of people—personal and professional—who you can count on for support. Members of your network may include friends, roommates, family members, your family doctor, your therapist, or even online support group members.
Cultivate your support network
Creating a successful social support network takes time and effort. It requires you take the time to initiate and reciprocate. Relationships are two-way, and the better friend you are, the better your friends will be. It is also important you tap a variety of people, with different perspectives and availability, to be a part of your social support network.
The key to creating and maintaining a successful support relationship is:
Be accessible. In order to make a friendship grow you will need to make your self socially available. This means answering the phone, responding to emails, and attending social events when invited.
Be proactive. It is also important that you initiate communications or social events. Depending on the appropriateness of the situation, invite a friend to coffee, or give them a call just to say “hello.”
Be supportive. Most importantly, the friendship must benefit both people. If you are supportive, interested and show appreciation, you will likely receive the same in return. Likewise, it is important to surround yourself with individuals that exhibit these same values.
Benefits of a social support network
Building and maintaining a successful social support network can take time and effort, but the benefits are endless. A satisfying supportive relationship can go a long way in improving your quality and longevity of life. Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness. And just knowing you\'re not alone can go a long way toward coping with stress.
In addition, a network of people of whom you trust, can provide an important and necessary level of personal feedback. They can be a reminder of your self worth. And ultimately keep you aware if you start to exhibit unhealthy behavior.