Anyone can feel lonely regardless of whether they live by themselves, with roommates, or with their families. The pandemic deprived us of socialization but now even when you’re free to socialize you’re no longer as outgoing as you were before.
It is understandable that our social skills may be a bit rusty these days. A lack of social skills can lead to feeling awkward, anxious, and irritable. Like exercising a muscle, we need to practice our social skills to regain our social health.
According to the American Psychological Association, loneliness and social isolation negatively affect one’s overall health. Some of the risks include a higher potential for cardiovascular disease, depression, and increased stress levels. Dealing with loneliness properly, then, is a means of self-care.
On the upside, social wellness is “ is building and engaging in trusting, respectful, and authentic relationships,” according to the University of New Hampshire.
According to UNH’s report, signs of social wellness include developing assertiveness skills— not passive or aggressive ones; the ability to be who you are in all situations; treating others with respect and valuing people; able to maintain and develop friendships and social networks—and create boundaries that encourage communication, trust and conflict management.
Good social health is crucial to improving overall health and promoting mental wellbeing.
According to a study from the University of Arizona, people with poor social skills are potentially at a greater risk for mental and physical health problems. The study found that individuals who lacked social skills reported more stress, felt more lonely, and poorer overall mental and physical health.
Fortunately, you can learn social skills. Connecting with people around you can help hone your social skills and become less awkward when communicating with others. Here are six things you can do to start developing your social skills and improve your social wellbeing.
Don’t feel pressured to be sociable right away. Start small. Reach out to your close friends first so you don’t feel stressed about meeting or impressing new people while making conversation.
Don’t worry if you’re feeling awkward in social situations because others may be feeling the same awkwardness, too. It’s best to face it head-on by acknowledging it or even making a joke about it to ease tensions.
Technology has made it easier for you to reach out to others near and far. Setting a time each day to chat, video call or simply email a friend is still a form of socialization and can help you improve your social skills.
Active listening is very important in any conversation. Avoid interrupting when someone is talking, and don’t talk over anyone. Also, try to ask follow-up questions to show that you’re genuinely interested. People generally respond better when they feel heard, and it makes for more meaningful interaction.
It would be easier to socialize with people if you have something in common. Joining an activity, like a volunteer group, an art class or a pet adoption group, can help you bond with other people who are into the same things that you are. People adopted so many hobbies during the pandemic that you’ll be sure to find a group you can talk to about tips and tricks.
A lot of people are likely relearning how to socialize, and you’ll probably make mistakes along the way too. Remember to cut people some slack if they don’t behave the way you expect them to in an interaction. More importantly, be compassionate towards yourself. When socializing starts to feel overwhelming, it’s okay to take a break to recharge.
Being social can help us battle loneliness and can keep us healthy. It is one of the four pillars of total wellbeing along with physical, mental and emotional, and financial. So when you think about your health, make sure you're not being one-sided and focusing just on physical wellbeing.
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