Social wellness is vital to overall well-being. Humans are most content when surrounded by peers. We are—by nature—social beings. Despite this, socialization skills don’t always come naturally. Indeed, teaching such skills to children is one of the many roles of parenting. They include expression, communication, listening, working with others, and caring .
This article first explores the signs of social deprivation. It then looks at the critical socialization skills and what you can do to develop and maintain them.
Social Deprivation Defined
Social deprivation is the disconnection from wider society. It’s the prevention or reduction of healthy interaction between a person and the world around them. The causes of societal deficit in America are complex. Poverty, low socioeconomic status, bullying, illness, and poor education are prime examples. And feral kids lack the social skills typically learned during the enculturation process , , .
Children who grow up socially deprived may go on to live lives that are cut off from broader society. The reasons are many and varied. Even so, it’s not usually a lifestyle someone would voluntarily choose for themselves. Others may have been socially involved and later became socially deprived. Again, there are numerous grounds as to why this might occur.
There is a way out of social deprivation for those who seek it.
Social Exclusion Defined
Social exclusion is not the same as social deprivation. It relates to being shunned because of who you are. LGBT, ethnic minorities, and those with disabilities have all been victims of social exclusion. American society is far more tolerant today of minority groups. However, there’s still much work to do in the US and the wider world. That’s according to a 2016 report on the World Social Situation .
Health Risks of Isolation
Some people lack essential face-to-face socialization skills and withdraw because of that. Others may isolate later in life for other reasons. The medical risks associated with long-term aloneness or isolation can be serious, says the American University of Minnesota. Research suggests it is comparable to high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity .
It makes sense, therefore, that “social wellness” is good for human health.
Signs of Social Stress
Americans become less socially active over time, and not always to their awareness. There are ten distinct signs of social distress and others that are subtler. Also, self-denial can prevent some from recognizing these areas of concern .
Below are the recognized signs of social stress:
- The absence of deep, meaningful relationships
- Relationships that are all-consuming
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Isolation from others
- Signs of hostility or irrational defiance
- A lack of respect for family members and peers
- Limited communication with friends and family
- Lying, stealing, and manipulation
- Physically abusive conducts
- Unease in social situations
There are solutions whether you’ve always been socially disconnected or have become that way. The rest of this page looks at the benefits of social wellness and the means to cultivate it.
How Do You Interact with Others?
Think about who you see daily and how you interact with them. It could be family, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, and the waiting staff at a local coffee shop. All the people in your life impact who you are as a person. Your social circle affects personal confidence and self-worth. Those you surround yourself with play a role in how you develop and the opportunities that come your way.
Now, think about how you might feel if those daily interactions were no longer there or much reduced. There’s truth in the saying, ‘We don’t know what we have until it’s gone.’
Why Social Well-Being Matters
Social wellness matters for reasons that affect the way we feel and function. People who positively interact with others get to live happier, more fulfilled lives .
Research linking 148 studies with 308,849 participants looked at longevity. It showed that people with secure social networks lived longer than those with none. Quality relationships have a positive effect on mental and physical health, according to sociologists. Social wellness also results in a stronger endocrine system and better cardiovascular functioning , .
The Path to Social Awareness
There are proven ways to develop one’s social wellness. That applies to anyone, even people who have no or rusty socialization skills. It’s a rewarding journey for those who embrace change. You will find that you DO have the power within to build new and better relationships. It’s a process that improves active listening skills, empathy, and meaningful interactions.
Below are seven established suggestions that can enhance social well-being:
- Learn to love yourself
- Develop better communication skills
- Improve current relationships and develop new ones
- Maintain regular contact with family and friends
- Practice self-disclosure
- Get active, become involved
- Surround yourself with a supportive team
We’ll now look at each of these points in turn and how you might approach them.
#1 Learn to love yourself
Self-love sounds ego-driven, but it’s not. It’s about being kind to yourself and appreciating what you have. Self-loathing is the opposite. It’s a toxic mindset that zooms in on what’s lacking rather than what’s present. Treat yourself how you would treat a much-loved child or a best friend. You deserve it. Replace all negative thoughts that enter your mind with positive ones until it becomes natural.
Here are a few other simple yet effective ways on how to love yourself:
- Spend some time to explore what’s good about you
- Keep a gratitude journal 
- Be realistic and accept what you cannot change
- Dare to change whatever needs changing
- Don’t look for other’s approval before speaking or doing
- Avoid—or at least distance yourself—from those who try to bring you down
- Forgive yourself for past mistakes
- Don’t beat yourself up from future mistakes. Learn from them instead
- Explore new opportunities and ways of doing things
- Do one good deed a day without seeking approval
Add to, delete from, or modify the list above so that it meets your needs. The point is to start thinking and doing things in new and positive ways. It works for those who work it.
#2 Develop better communication skills
Effective communication is a skill, and like all skills, it can be natural or learned. The better we connect with others, the healthier our social wellness becomes. Interactions can be spoken, written, and in the form of nonverbal cues. The best approach for self-improvement is to go against the natural grain and try new things. Look for areas where you can improve but without beating yourself up. Successful exchanges matter as they result in fewer misunderstandings and improved relationships , .
Here are some suggested approaches for developing communication skills:
- Reflect on past communications. Make notes on areas for improvement
- Dare to say what’s on your mind
- Speak clearly and not too fast
- Never raise your voice or shout in normal conversations
- Avoid using big words when smaller ones can say the same thing
- Maintain eye contact when speaking with others
- Learn to use hand gestures to express yourself better
- Be mindful of your body language 
- Display a constructive attitude
- Learn to listen more and talk less when appropriate
That last point is an interesting one. Some of the best conversationalists are those who say little and listen a lot. We all want to have our say, but listening skills are vital for effective communication .
#3 Improve current relationships; develop new ones
Personal and professional relationships are central to social wellness. Practice point 2 above and improved relations will happen naturally. An effective way to develop and maintain better contacts is to slow down. Also, try to think more about others and less about yourself.
A little understanding and compassion for others can do wonders. Simple, sincere compliments on looks or achievements cost nothing but can mean a lot. It’s nice to be nice, and it’s a win-win approach to better relations. Interact more with real people and less with electronic devices. Finally, commit to spending quality time with close friends, a spouse, and family members .
Healthy dating practices
Friendships can be casual or intimate. Those who are “socially well” tend to be confident and comfortable in their skin. They get along naturally with others, including strangers. People who come out from social isolation find it harder to communicate in meaningful ways. But there comes a time when long-term singles and divorced couples want to date but have forgotten how.
You may need to develop or refresh socials skills before you start to court again. There is lots of sound advice from industry experts around to advise on safe dating practices. There are specialized websites and phone apps that cater to all. That includes specific tastes, age groups, sexual orientation, and demographics, etc. 
A respectful date starts the moment you meet a potential partner. The engagements must be open, honest, and have unspoken boundaries in those early encounters. It’s as important to listen as it is to talk. Ask your date questions about themselves rather than volunteer stuff about yourself.
You might want to prepare a list of questions in advance. There’s a good chance you won’t get through them all, and that’s okay. But your list is there to fall back on if the conversation dries up .
#4 Maintain regular contact
All relationships need regular maintenance if they’re to succeed. An increase in work demands and a desire for more stuff has caused many a rift in personal contacts. Societal wellness is about striking the right balance. Social networks have their place, but they don’t come close to person-to-person interactions. Sadly, virtual connections now exceed real-world meetings.
Social wellness fares much better with real-life relationships. A study found that personal connections drop off dramatically for men and women after the age of 25. Still, individual well-being is more about the quality than the quantity of relationships. Reestablish regular contact with friends and family if it’s lost. Suggest a coffee, an outing, or start to exercise with others , .
#5 Practice self-disclosure
Self-disclosure can help to maintain social wellness, but there’s a warning. Overly intimate confessions may highlight a person’s personality flaws and vulnerabilities. That can either increase or decrease their likeability depending on who the listener is. Thus, it’s never wise to practice self-disclosure in new relationships. You can also confide in trusted family members or qualified therapists.
Confessions don’t need to be deep and intimate to be beneficial to social well-being. Leaking a few personal details to old and new friends can prove a pleasant experience. It instills a level of trust and encourages the other person to open up too. This is how meaningful dialogs materialize. It can also remove feelings of loneliness and decrease anxiety , .
#6 Get active; become involved
To be involved means to plug into society, especially the local community. Americans who become a part of rather than apart from are happier and healthier. There are so many ways to improve one’s involvement. A simple daily stroll with friends or family is an excellent way to get active. Try different activities until you find something that works for you.
Get involved with the local community if you can. Those who join in with communal activities find it immensely rewarding. It’s also an excellent way to meet different people and make new friends .
#7 Create a support system
People need people, and quality relationships are proven to benefit overall social wellness. Childhood friendships can get lost as we marry, move away, or change careers, etc. Try to re-establish those bonds from the past if you’ve become friend deficient. There’s usually shared history and trust in childhood companions. They can strengthen a social support system like none other .
New friendships can work well too. The point is to surround yourself with those who care about you and you about them. Build a network of buddies, family members, peers, and colleagues. A support system doesn’t have to be big though it can be if you have time to commit. These are people you trust. You feel comfortable around them and can talk freely about most things.
The next section points to online resources for further reading on social wellness matters.
An Unsung Hero of Social Wellness: Healthy Psych
Created by psychologist Kim Pratt to connect with and educate other psychologists and mental health professionals, Healthy Psych is a treasure trove of information on social wellness. Their Learning Center offers valuable information that can help you improve your social wellness, like a blog post series on positive psychology, interviews with insightful mental health professionals, and links to the latest psychological research studies.
Looking to connect with others? Healthy Psych also offers a forum to discuss various psychological topics with other members, from “Relating and Connecting” to “Let’s Play!” You can start improving your social wellness today through the resources available on Healthy Psych.
Martin holds a Master’s degree from the University of Copenhagen in Biophysics, and he enjoys using the research skills he honed while getting his advanced degree to uncover exactly what it takes to feel better.