The Elements of Well-Being: Social

social well-being

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This is Part Two of a five part series on the elements of well-being by Steven Trotter. Read Part One here.

One of the questions I am often asked is, “What’s the difference between wellness and well-being?” At the surface, it’s a hard question to answer, but if we peel back the layers of the well-being onion, we can uncover more depth on the topic.

According to Webster’s dictionary, wellness is defined as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal” and well-being is defined as “the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous.”

In my opinion, I believe wellness has an outdated view and can be accomplished by simply checking a box. Well-being isn’t about checking a box; it’s the dials on a mixer at a concert where you have to turn-up some elements while dialing down others to achieve the desired outcome. It’s a constant flow of energy working together to create harmony within ourselves. So you might ask, what does “the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous” mean? Well, read on my friends, let’s explore social well-being.

Social well-being is having strong relationships and love in your life. Let’s assess the level to which you agree to the following statements:

  • Someone in my life encourages me to be healthy.
  • My friends and family give me positive energy each day.

The phrase “who you spend time with the most is who you will become” has a lot of truth to it. Your social network has more influence on your happiness than your wealth. According to Gallup research, you are 6% more likely to be happy if a connection of yours even 3 degrees removed from you is happy, whereas an increase of $10,000 in annual income is associated with just a 2% increase of happiness.

Another phrase you may have heard is “work spouse.” Often one will refer to their “work spouse” as the colleague they spend the most time with in the office or at conferences and someone they trust to have confidential work-related discussions; simply put, it’s the person most likely to “have your back.” We sometimes laugh at the phrase, but once again it has truth to it. Having a “best friend” at work is a more powerful predictor of workplace outcomes than simply having a “friend” or “good friend.” At least 30% of surveyed employees have a best friend at work. Those who do are seven times as likely to produce higher quality work, have higher well-being and are less likely to get injured on the job.

I’m sure if you read my article on the Office of the Future: The Remote Worker, you may be questioning my thought process when encouraging folks to move to more remote working yet also I stress the importance of social networks at work. Allow me to elaborate. Remote team members and/or virtual offices can still have high levels of social well-being. Colleagues may only see each other a few times a year, but can still be engaged by discussing sports, personal conversations, etc. via Slack or other messaging systems.

I recently encouraged my team to read, “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements” by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. We dissected the book and discussed it at our well-being leadership workshop. One thing that sticks out for me about social well-being is data suggests that for us to have a thriving day, we need six hours of social time. When we get at least six hours of daily social time, our well-being is increased while stress and worry are decreased. If six hours seems unattainable, then remember the six hours can be accumulated from work, home, talking on the phone, talking with friends, and even sending direct messages through your team’s Slack or other team communication channels.

Social well-being simply put is having strong relationships in your life. If you are looking to improve your social well-being, try one or more of these following tips:

  • Spend six hours a day socializing with friends, family and colleagues (this time includes work, home, phone, email and other electronic communications).
  • Strengthen the mutual connections in your network.
  • Mix social time with physical activity (office kickball league anyone?).

As we continue to peel back the layers of the well-being onion, remember to surround yourselves with people that encourage you to be the best version of you.

Rath, Tom, and James K Harter. Wellbeing : The Five Essential Elements. New York, Gallup Press, 2014. Pp. 35, 39, 41, 42, 44, 154.

Steven Trotter, MS, is a consultant, continuing education provider, adjunct faculty member in health and fitness science, and principal for Globetrotter Wellness Solutions. He also serves as the associate director for wellness and fitness at East Carolina University. His expertise is rooted in university rec programs with a repertoire in leadership and organizational development, fitness facility design and management, behavior change, and program management. Steven is a 2017 IDEA Program Director of the Year finalist and presents at numerous conferences across North America each year. He is a subject matter expert and blogger for the American Council on Exercise and previously served a 3.5-year term on the industry advisory panel. Steven has a master of science in health in physical education from Virginia Tech and bachelor of science in exercise science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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