Social support is a person’s network of relationships with people. It includes:
- How many relationships a person has
- The type of relationships a person has
- How happy a person is with those relationships
Health Benefits of Social Support
Social support often plays a role in health and well-being. It can help:
- Improve mood and mental well being
- Lower stress and stress-related illnesses
- Improve recovery from illness
- Keep you healthy
Other benefits of social support are having someone to:
- Do things with you
- Be there for you during important or difficult times
- Offer help, information, or advice
Assess Your Social Support
Take a look at your current social network. Assess how happy you are with your relationships.
Number of Relationships and Amount of Interaction
How satisfied are you with how many relationships you have? Do you wish you could interact more or less?
How many close and/or dependable relationships do you have? How many are with people within 1 hour’s drive from your home? Consider relationships with:
- Do you spend time with someone who does not live with you?
- Do you talk to friends or relatives on the phone, email, or text message?
- Do you go to meetings, social clubs, or other groups?
- Do you belong to online social networking sites? Are you in online support groups for people with similar life situations?
Quality of Relationships
How happy is your relationship with family and friends? In the majority of these relationships, do you feel that you are:
- Understood or heard
- Loved, or at least appreciated
- Given information that you need
- Able to talk about your problems with at least some of them
- Able to express yourself
How to Find Support
Work on Your Social Skills
Almost everyone can benefit from some social skills training. Consider classes, therapy, and books that can help you:
- Feel more confident around others
- Be better at asking for what you want
- Feel better about yourself
- Start and maintain conversations
- Deepen relationships
Get Involved in Groups, Clubs, and Classes
Get involved in community activities. It is a great way to meet people. Here are some ideas:
- Check local night schools, colleges, and universities. Many offer a variety of classes. You can learn a new skill, make new friends, and share your interests with others.
- Join a church or spiritual group. These can be great places to meet others. Spiritual interests may also help feel more connected to others.
- Be active in a group. Speak up, take a key position, or volunteer.
Get to Know Your Neighbors and Your Local Community
To get to know people in your neighborhood and community:
- Go for walks in your neighborhood. Say hello to neighbors and introduce yourself.
- Shop at neighborhood stores and shops.
- Go to places on a regular basis. Examples are a local park, beach, coffeehouse, museum, or sporting event.
- Consider hosting a block party. Send invitations to your neighbors.
- Start a community improvement project or run for office.
- Join a local health club or sports team.
Take Some Risks
Meeting new people can be hard. Neither person knows the other or what to expect. Here are some tips that may help:
- Look for something to start a conversation. Try to let your personality show, even if just a little. If the person does not want to talk, talk to someone else. It takes ongoing effort to make friends.
- Do not be afraid to respond to strangers who try to talk to you. However, always use common sense. Stay away from people who seem overly aggressive or dangerous. Make sure you are in a safe area and feel comfortable first.
- Consider finding friends who are different from you in some way. Be open to friends from the opposite sex, or other age groups and cultures. Your friends do not have to be just like you.
Join or Start a Support Group
Support groups are for people who share a common problem. Most communities have support groups. The groups may concern problems such as divorce, grief, parenting, alcoholism, cancer, and caregiving. Consider forming your own group. You can find resources at your local library or online.
Volunteers are needed almost everywhere—hospitals, nursing homes, charities, churches, and so on. Give your talents to a cause that makes you happy. Create your own opportunity.
Get a Roommate or Two
A compatible roommate can help ease loneliness and share some expenses. Ask careful questions to people who want to be roommates. If looking for a place to live, look for signs of friendly housing.
After relationships form, they must be maintained. This takes time and effort. Here are some tips:
- Keep in touch on a regular basis—call, write, or get together.
- Work together on a project or hobby.
- Find the level of closeness that works for both people.
- Share feelings, memories, dreams, disappointments, experiences, and humor.
- Listen and allow the other person to share.
- Give the relationship time to grow.
- Work on the relationship. There may be problems at times. Even if it is uncomfortable, try to address them.
Get a Pet
Pets can be great sources of support. They offer warmth, affection, and companionship.
American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org
Mental Health America http://www.nmha.org
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca
Mental Health Canada http://www.mentalhealthcanada.com
Depression in older adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/depression-in-older-adults. Accessed June 8, 2021.
Stress relief is within reach. American Psychological Association website. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress. Accessed June 8, 2021.
Social support: getting and staying connected. Mental Health America website. Available at: https://mhanational.org/stay-connected. Accessed June 8, 2021.
Seek the right kind of social support. American Psychological Association website. Available at: . Accessed June 8, 2021.