When the going gets tough in your life, whether with your health, your finances, or your relationships, who do you reach out to for help and support? Do you have a team who's ready and willing to be by your side when you're in need?
Social and emotional support buoys your spirit in hard times, and knowing that you have people to lean on in times of stress can do wonders for your emotional well-being.
Can you remember a time when something terribly stressful happened in your life? Perhaps a loved one died or you lost something very precious to you. Who and what got you through that dark time? How did you survive? Chances are, your friends and loved ones showed compassion, held you when you were crying, or otherwise supported you at a time when that support may have been the one thing standing between you and completely falling apart. Can you relate?
Social support has been shown to be intrinsically important to human emotional well-being, but also to physical health.
Social Support is Good For Your Health
In Psychiatry MMC, a journal published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, a 2007 article entitled "Social Support and Resilience To Stress" describes the scientific aspects of how social support positively influences health, particularly the ability to resist the effects of stress.
While science has yet to completely uncover exactly how the human body is physiologically or genetically impacted positively by social and emotional support, the research shows clearly that social support can buffer against mental illness and physical illness. The mechanisms may not be understood, but we know it happens.
Poor Social Support Doesn't Help
What happens to people who have no social support? Think of the lonely widower living alone in his home, without family or friends to interact with. He may eat poorly, become confused or depressed, develop unhealthy habits, and otherwise become more prone to illness or injury. With no one checking on him or lifting his spirits, he'll fall into depression, his immune system will falter, and he may succumb to pneumonia or another illness resulting from loneliness, poor lifestyle choices, and the consequences of such choices and habits.
A homeless person is another example. Without social supports to offer encouragement and succor, how can the homeless person maintain a positive outlook for the future? The mind-body connection is powerful, and he or she may fall into illness and declining health rather rapidly.
Loneliness and social isolation can lead to increased stress, which triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and these hormones then lead to inflammatory changes that can exacerbate conditions like diabetes an heart disease.
Build Your Support Network
In the interest of your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health, build a strong, robust social network that can see you through the tough times.
Your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and others can be your bulwark against loneliness and isolation, and that social support will boost your immune system, help you to feel less alone, lift your spirits, and otherwise boost you up.
Meanwhile, you can also be there for your friends, family, colleagues, and neighors; giving of yourself with compassion and love will itself make you feel better and lift your spirits through actions based in altruistic kindness.
There's nothing like social and emotional support, so build it for yourself, and be part of the building blocks of support for others. You'll all be healthier and happier for it.