This summer has come and, while not quite gone, is going quickly and with it so has July’s Social Wellness month. Even though it has already come to a close, it is still important to take time to reflect and plan ahead for your social wellness (doing so may even have benefits for your physical health. Personally, when thinking about social wellness, I tend to think about a quote that has always resonated with me, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This quote exists in many forms and this exact stating of it originally comes from entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn. According to Rohn, he had come to this conclusion from the law of averages, a theory in sales and business that “the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.” In this way, the statement is often interpreted as a sort of proactive filtration system that individuals should employ to only allow successful people in their top 5 so that they will be more successful through social osmosis. I think of this quote a little differently. For me, it is a reflection tool to understand the impact of others on my life as well as my impact on others. The “top 5” also seems arbitrary as I do not think that the effect of the social sphere stops after the 5 people you spend the most time with. For me, the important part of the quote is understanding the correlation between the people in your life and your identity and therefore, the effect of the external (the social sphere) on the internal (you). Understanding this dichotomy is why practicing social wellness matters; none of us are islands unto ourselves and when we spend time with people, that time matters. Our social lives are much more than purely recreational, they can be therapeutic or stressful depending on what we make of them. In all cases, our social interactions are the building blocks to who we are as people.
In many cases, it can seem hard to steer our social lives with total control and often the process of socializing seems more like a roller-coaster of unpredictable events: Your coworkers are an outcome of where you work; many old friendships that we stumbled into were through situational coincidence, not realizing you were friends until it was already established; and for family, none of us can choose the family we’re born into. So how do we make a conscious effort to improve our social wellness? For me, it is thinking about my positive social interactions as capital in my life. My time spent socializing has value and, just like many of us want to make more money, we should strive to have more positive social interactions. Just as with capital, some investments can be better than others, and it is always wise to invest in social interactions that will be more positive or meaningful to you. If spending time with a particular person tends to give you more stress, maybe you need to lower the amount of time you invest with that person or speak to them about the nature of your social interactions. On the flip side of that coin, if you’re feeling like you are lacking in an area (maybe lacking a creative outlet or the amount of exercise you get) seeking out individuals who themselves are engaged in those areas may be the best way to invest time. Lastly, time spent helping others or volunteering will always be therapeutic to your social wellness and help you feel fulfilled. However, doing all of this can seem a little tough, many people tend to be comfortable keeping things as they are. Addressing that negative social situation in your life may be scary, getting in touch to spend more time with people you’re not close with may seem awkward, and it can be so hard to fit time in to volunteer.
If this seems overwhelming, remember that it’s all about taking things one step at a time. You have more power than you think to accomplish these things. Start slow: take some time for reflection, identify the changes you want, and be conscious of where you’re putting your time. Next plan ahead to put yourself in the social situations you want to be in: look for a class to connect with people who share a particular interest; make it a point to call to that old friend or send out a text to an acquaintance you would like to spend more time with; look for ways to easily integrate some volunteer time into your schedule (PRA offers the chance for all employees to volunteer with a shelter breakfast in Albany every month).Lastly, for the negative social situations in your life, the power of communication can never be understated. Full honesty works best to address social needs, so tell people how you are feeling and try reducing your time spent in those situations.. Just remember, you decide where you invest your social capital!