Why Bother With Social Wellness?
Our mental wellness is tied to managing and caring about all the different aspects of our lives—the emotional and physical self, the spiritual, intellectual, and social self as well as our environmental, interpersonal and occupational areas. We are complex creatures and when all of these systems work in congruence to one another, the result is mental stability. But when they are incongruent, acting against one another, chaos reigns.
Though each of these areas of our mental wellness are interconnected, I thought it wise to break them apart and look at them individually.
‘No Man is an Island’
John Donne, a poet from the 1600s, wrote a short, but poignant poem, No Man is an Island. In a few words he emphasizes the interconnectedness of human beings. In his poem, Donne used the idea of the sea washing away a small clod of earth from the continent which makes the continent less. So too, as humans, we are diminished by any man’s death.
Humans are made to connect with one another. As in the movie Castaway and in the book Hatchet, the two main characters learn to survive on their own because they have to. They both build shelters, and learn to eat whatever food they find. But all along, they think about how to reunite with the civilized world. At one point, after being alone for so long, both characters consider ending their lives because although they can survive, they can’t imagine living the rest of their days alone. Surviving is very different from thriving and it is the connection with people that enriches our lives.
Solitary confinement is a disciplinary action used in penal systems. Those in solitary confinement experience depression, hopelessness, and paranoia. Being alone, with no meaningful contact with another human being whittles a person down to feeling less than human. If left in solitary confinement for too long, one even forgets how to live around others.
But, if you are reading this blog post that means you are not stranded on an island by yourself as in Castaway, or alone in the Canadian wilderness as in Hatchet, or in solitary confinement in prison. So, you have the capacity to benefit from interacting, connecting and interfacing with others. Even introverts, such as myself, reap something worthwhile when we learn to balance our preferred solitude and silence with mingling and conversing with other people.
Our sense of purpose is heightened when we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Belonging to a community, whether at work, or church or volunteering for a good cause, we share a commonality with others like ourselves. When ideas, resources, and energy are exchanged among a group, greater things can happen. And though many use Facebook, Instagram, emailing, zooming and texting, too much is lost in cyberspace. There really is no substitute for person to person connections.
Thankfully, we have the freedom to choose those with whom we want to keep company with, but keeping company with them ought to benefit both participants’ social wellness. Do we share similar values? Is there mutual respect? Is truthfulness, accountability and honesty a shared goal? If so, social wellness is almost inevitable. If not then we might want to reevaluate the company we keep.
Why bother with social wellness? Our emotional wellness is worth pursuing because with it we are enriched without it, we are less than we could be.