As humans, we need other humans to thrive. Social support and social interaction have a positive influence on our physical and mental health. Social support refers to the psychological and material resources provided by a social network to help individuals cope with stress. Such social support may come in different forms, and might involve:
Helping a person with various daily tasks or offering financial assistance when they are in need
Advising and being present for a friend when they are facing a difficult situation
Providing care, empathy, and concern for loved ones in need
Research has shown that having a strong support system has many positive benefits, such as higher levels of well-being, better coping skills, and longer and healthier life. Studies have also shown that social support can reduce depression and anxiety. After all, as we all know, humans are communal animals that thrive on social interactions and cooperation.
A strong support system can often help reduce stress. Stress that stems from work, studies or even family issues, can then impact our physical health and mental wellness. Having a strong support system provides a group of people that we can go to for assistance. Below are some ways to create a strong support system.
When working hard for our goals or dealing with a crisis, experts frequently implore people to lean on their friends and family for support. Research has also demonstrated the link between social relationships and many different aspects of health and wellness.
Poor social support has been linked to depression and loneliness and has been shown to alter brain function and increase the risk of negative situations such as alcohol use, depression and suicide.
There are three core groups that make up a strong support system—family, friends, and professional colleagues (including mentors and bosses). Naturally, the level of support that we receive from each of these groups will vary, but they are all essential for a complete support system. At any given time, these three groups will provide one of three types of social support—emotional, instrumental and informational.
Emotional support is defined as expressions of empathy, love, trust, and care. We usually get this type of support from our close friends and family. They are there with a shoulder to cry on when things are not going our way. This type of support can be particularly important during times of stress or loneliness.
Instrumental support is tangible aid and service. This type of support can also come from close friends and family. They take care of our physical needs and offer a helping hand when we need it. This might involve bringing in a hot meal when we are sick or giving us a ride when our car is in the shop. Such support is important when we have immediate needs that must be addressed.
Informational support is advice, suggestions, and information. This form of support can come from any one of the three core groups, though often from bosses. Such support can be important when making decisions or big changes in our life. By having this form of support, we may feel less anxious and stressed out about the problems we are trying to solve thanks to the advice of a trusted friend, mentor, or loved one.
The benefits of having a strong support system are as follows:
Participation in social groups has a normative influence on behaviours, often influencing whether people eat a healthy diet, exercise, smoke, drink, or use illegal substances. Social groups can sometimes have a negative influence in this regard when peer pressure and influence leads to poor or even dangerous health choices. However, group pressure and support can also lead people to engage in healthy behaviours as well.
Coping With Stress
Social support also helps people cope with stress. Stress has been shown to have serious health consequences ranging from reduced immunity to an increased risk of heart disease. Being surrounded by people who are caring and supportive help people to see themselves as better capable of dealing with the stresses that life brings.
Social relationships can also help people to stay motivated when trying to achieve their goals. People who are trying to lose weight or quit smoking often find that it helps to connect with people who are actively trying to attain those same goals. Talking to people who are going through the same experience can often be a source of support, empathy, and motivation.
Conclusion: Benefits of having a strong support system and its components
A strong support system is always necessary, and especially so in the context of the current pandemic. Feelings of isolation and being socially excluded have become issues raised across the globe as we shift towards work arrangements with a high proportion of working-from-home. We hope this article can bring more insights to your support system alongside the importance of having a strong one.