Social Wellbeing: Finding New Ways to Embrace My Mental Health

Author: Shamis Pitts

The idea of social wellbeing is being turned on its head these days. One of the three components of mental wellbeing, the other two being emotional and psychological, social wellbeing has taken on a whole new meaning. Our social wellbeing, or lack thereof, is being scrutinized with an entirely new level of awareness.

What is social wellbeing? It is one’s ability to communicate, develop meaningful relationships with others and maintain a support network that helps overcome loneliness. Now that the world is collectively working together to stay home to slow down the coronavirus, we are learning so much about our personal social needs and that of others.

Connection via phone, chat, video is not sufficient. I get it.

Several of my friends and family are realizing that their preferred social experiences are now set-up for success. They can pick and choose when they engage and enjoy being home because they can reset and renew themselves there without concern. (Note: These friends are not essential works and, therefore, have the privilege of staying home.) Other friends and family are still having a difficult time adjusting to this new way of being, no matter how many virtual happy hours they have with friends. Connection via phone, chat, video is not sufficient. I get it.

Hugging It Out for My Mental Health

I am a hugger. And, no joke, I have started hugging my computer at the end of video calls with friends and family so I can recreate the feeling of an embrace. Strange? Possibly. But it works for me. The simple act of wrapping my arms around my laptop and my face physically getting closer to the webcam makes me so happy. Usually, the person who I am hugging is compelled to do the same.

The shared experience, however unconventional, evokes smiles, laughter and joy. Just thinking about it right now makes me smile. And honestly, I am tearing up right now. Why? Because I am grateful that I have friends and family that let me be “me” in those instances. They know what a good hug means to me and they opt-in. They are choosing to connect and comfort me in a way that has meaning for me.

The Power of Opting-In

When I think about my interactions with others, and when I think about challenging relationships that my leadership coaching clients have with others, whether they are personal or professional, at the end of the day, it comes down to that…People want others to “opt-in”. With their thoughts, feelings, ideas, actions.

Take a chance. Right now, we are all learning.

The question is, “How do you get someone to opt-in?” My answer: First, build rapport. One interaction at a time. Let people know what is important to you in a way that is authentic. And when you have good rapport, then make the ask. My sister, who lives in California, asked me to take a virtual yoga class with her. While she was concerned about my physical wellbeing, she was equally, if not more, interested in having a shared experience that we could both look forward to each week.

What’s the worst that can happen? You make an ask and the other person can say “no”. Okay. But if you do not ask, “no” is the default. Take a chance. Right now, we are all learning, trying new things and exploring different ways that we can connect. Make a compelling ask. You just may be surprised who opts-in to do a group hug with you via computer.

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