Debra Niemasz, MSW, LICSW, is a counselor at the Employee and Family Assistance Program atThe University of Vermont Medical Center.

Debra Niemasz, MSW, LICSW, is a counselor at the Employee and Family Assistance Program atThe University of Vermont Medical Center.

Join The UVM Medical Center “Gift of Friends Giveaway” on Facebook and Instagram. The contest runs through December 14, 2015. We will show you how your social wellbeing connects to your overall health and wellbeing. Join the fun!

Social wellbeing is one of the five essential elements of wellbeing (Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community Wellbeing). Social Wellbeing consists of the connections we have with family and friends and its impact on our overall wellbeing.

Research shows that our connections impact our wellbeing including happiness, obesity, depression and other health related issues. In fact, Tom Rath and Jim Harter report in their book ‘Wellbeing, the Five Essential Elements’ that your odds of being happy increase by 15 percent if a direct connection in your social network is happy. Think about that! Just spending time with happy friends could increase your happiness! This can also work in the workplace – spreading positive ideas and listening to others creates a more positive workplace.

Cultivating friends at work is another important element to feeling engaged, productive, and satisfied. Many people spend more time at work than in other areas of their life. It is suggested that several hours a day of social time increases wellbeing. Having a ‘best friend’ at work can make all the difference in one’s attitude about their employment. Employees feel more satisfied and therefore more productive when they have positive social interactions at work.

You can also improve both social and physical wellbeing by being physically active with a friend or coworker. Physical activity with a friend or coworker can have a profound effect on health and wellness. Walking meetings, taking the stairs, and Fitbit challenges are all ways to engage socially while increasing physical activity.

Having a loving partnership also increases wellbeing. Research shows that having close ties with family and friends can decrease recovery time from illness and may even help reduce the risk of health-related illness and stress. Cultivating love in your life, through family, friends, pets, etc. helps improve mood and wellbeing. Look for areas in your home life to increase positive interactions with people you love. Keep things in perspective, and look for ways to cultivate more positivity rather than focusing on negativity.

Rath and Harter have 3 recommendations for boosting social wellbeing:

  1. Spend time each day socializing with friends, family and colleagues (this time includes work, home, phone, email, and other communication)
  2. Strengthen the mutual connections in your network.
  3. Mix social time with physical activity. For example, take a long walk with a friend or coworker so you can motivate each other to be healthy.

Try bringing these recommendations into your life on a daily basis for 4-6 weeks and see what happens!

Debra Niemasz, MSW, LICSW, is a counselor with the Employee and Family Assistance Program at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

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