The Connection Between Social Support and Physical Health

Understanding the Link Between Social Support and Physical Health

Navigating life’s rough spots can be difficult without a supportive social circle. Our relationships with family and friends play a big role in keeping us healthy and happy, and can even help us live longer. Social support and physical health are closely connected— something we often take for granted.

The first step in understanding the connection between social support and physical health is to define social support. It’s more than just having friends and family around. Social support is the help and affirmation we receive from those closest to us – love, understanding, and compassion when times are hard, celebration when times are good.

Having a supportive network of people can greatly improve our physical health by:

  • Boosting the Immune System: Studies have shown that good relationships help lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation, and reduce depression – all of which can contribute to a stronger immune system.
  • Improving Mental Health: Close relationships can help protect against stress, depression and many other mental health issues. People who are socially connected can handle difficult emotions better, process them faster, and cope with life’s problems more effectively.
  • Improving Physical Health: Good relationships reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can positively affect physical health through lowered cortisol levels, improved brain function and increased longevity.

However, the connection between social support and health goes both ways—our health can also affect our ability to develop and maintain supportive relationships. People who are physically ill or disabled may find it difficult to be part of their social network and be successful in relationships. It can be hard to be on the receiving end of care and support.

Tips to Improve Social Connections and Build Supportive Relationships

Developing and maintaining a supportive network of people can have a major impact on your physical health. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Initiate conversations with strangers—make an effort to meet and get to know people in your community.
  • Seek out reputable support groups—online and offline.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable—communicating openly with trusted friends and family can help strengthen relationships.
  • Invest in meaningful activities—hobbies, volunteering and other activites can help bring joy, acceptance and a sense of purpose.
  • Make time for conversations and activities that you enjoy—spend time with family and friends and make sure to have fun!

The link between social support and physical health is undeniable. Taking the time to nurture supportive relationships can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing— an investment that pays invaluable dividends. Make sure to check in with yourself regularly to assess your relationships and take the steps needed to build and maintain a strong social circle.

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In an effort to look after your physical and emotional health, don’t forget to focus on your social connections too. Strong relationships can act as a protective factor against many physical ailments, and can even give you greater longevity. It’s essential to invest in building meaningful, supportive relationships and cultivating good social habits.

Above all else, remember that building relationships takes time and effort. Don’t be afraid to open up, take initiative to connect with people, and step out of your comfort zone. As you do, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of wonderful social support and improved physical health.

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