Social networks provide a sense of belonging, security, and a community where you can share your concerns and needs and support others. Social networks can be simple - they can consist of talking with a friend over a cup of coffee, visiting with a relative, or going on an outing with a church or social club.
Social networks can increase your sense of purpose, self-worth, and promote positive mental health. They can help you get through a divorce, a job loss, the death of a loved one, or the addition of a new member to your family. Often, just knowing they are available can reduce people's negative responses to stressful events or other problems.
There are many activities in which you can participate that will expand your social support network. Explore the following possibilities:
- Work out
- Take a walk with your pet
- Find others who share a hobby
- Join a cause
Developing and maintaining healthy social ties involves give and take. Sometimes you are the one giving support and other times you are on the receiving end. Recognize who is able to provide you with the most support.
Letting family and friends know you love and appreciate them will help ensure that their support remains strong when times are rough. At the same time, remember that some of the people you routinely interact with will be more demanding than supportive. Give yourself the flexibility to limit your interaction with those people.
Also beware of support systems that are unhealthy or rigid. These can be just as damaging as having no connections at all. If people in your social support system are continually stressed or ill, the support they can offer will be quite limited. If your friends place heavy demands on your time and resources, or if you are unable to meet their needs, you may find yourself more anxious and depressed.