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Blog #10: Social Wellness and You

Updated: 6 days ago



Social Wellness isn't a secret. It's all around you. It means being positively connected to friends, family, fellow students, supervisors, other employees, or anyone else in your environment. Have you ever heard of this before? Do you know how it directly shapes your life everyday? Here's the place to find out more......




Definition of Social Wellness

You may not have heard of social wellness, but it's something that surrounds us everyday. A simple way to define social wellness is "positive connections". But, these connections are really much more complicated more that. For instance, the folks at the University of New Hampshire (2022) list other inter-related behaviors that go hand-in-hand with social wellness:

  • Developing assertiveness instead of being passive or aggressive.

  • Finding a balance between social and personal time.

  • Learning to be who you are in all situations.

  • Becoming engaged with other people in your community.

  • Valuing diversity/treating others with respect.

  • Maintaining/developing friendships and social networks.

  • Creating boundaries within relationship boundaries.

  • Encouraging communication, trust and conflict management.

  • Remembering to have fun.

  • Having a supportive network of family and friends.

So, while no one may have ever talked with you about social wellness, this list underscores how important it is to your daily happiness.



Benefits of Social Wellness

So, how does all this apply to you? A quick answer is that social wellness simply makes your life better! In fact, multiple studies say just that. For instance, Tough, Siegrist, & Fekete (2017) reviewed 63 studies about social wellness and people with disabilities (e.g., specifically people with physical disabilities). These scholars found that social wellness is crucial to mental and physical wellness. In other words, the more you promote social wellness in your everyday life, the more you also contribute to your own mental and physical health. For instance, you can use drugs or alcohol to ease your loneliness and depression--or you can try social wellness. You can take a whole bottle of aspirin for your tension headache, or you can give yourself a good dose of social wellness.

All of these benefits clearly fall under the category of "quality of life". This is a critical component for any adult success--whether you have a disability or not. For instance, just think about someone you know who is happy with their life. Or, the reverse can be true--are they really unhappy with their life? What seems to make the difference between these two people?

If you look closer, you'll find that the happier person is able to have a balance in their life. They're able to be assertive and set boundaries if necessary, but are not aggressive about it. They're engaged in a diverse community and always treat others with respect. They have strong social networks and close friendships that continue to support them in the good times and bad times. Perhaps of most importance, they possess a key component to a happy life that no one ever teaches you--how to be yourself and have fun doing it!


Social Wellness and LD or Dyslexia

Clearly, research underscores the importance of social wellness. For instance, the Tough, Siegrist, & Fekete (2017) study specifically applied this concept to people with physical disabilities. While I found their meta-analysis encouraging, it's really disappointing that I couldn't find any other research about the connections between social wellness and people with LD or dyslexia. Common sense would tell us that the Tough, Siegrist, and Fekete study could generalize to other disabilities as well (i.e., sensory, neurological, cognitive, etc.). But until we have actual data, it's hard to make that assumption.

As a result, the only insights I can share with you about social wellness is my own preliminary work on psychosocial factors and adults with LD or dyslexia (Price, Johnson, & Evil, 1994; Madus, Gerber, & Price, 2008; Price & Ness, 1994: Price & Patton, 2003; Ryan & Price, 1992). This work explore the connections between various emotional or social aspects of one's life through the lens of a learning disability. For instance, numerous authors have talked about the prevalence of depression, anxiety, frustration, and poor self concept observed in children and adolescents with LD or dyslexia (Bryan, Bursting, & Ergul, 2004; LDA, 2022; Nelson & Harwood, 2010; Swanson & Malone, 2019; Vaughn, Elbam, & Schumm, 1996). I also saw this in my numerous interviews and interactions with adolescents and adults with LD around the United States and abroad.

An equally important component of these psychosocial issues seems to be the reported prevalence of social isolation and loneliness for folks with LD. There also may be an intriguing connection between LD or dyslexia and drug abuse (Yates, 2012). Add to all that various, on-going feelings of frustration, anger, confusion, plus wide-spread mis-understandings about an invisible disorder like LD and you have a really potent mix. It seems to me that all these issues and hurdles must somehow directly correlate with social wellness. But again, it is important to emphasize that such studies, to my knowledge, do not currently exist at this time.

*Note: If you know of any, please let me know!


Scenarios



As you can tell from the previous material, social wellness is truly a multi-faceted topic. Below are a few scenarios that illustrate different aspects of social wellness in adult life--especially as it applies to LD and dyslexia....


Scenario #1: Career Wellbeing

Henry has worked at the same job for about 12 years and he hates it. After he graduated from high school with a lot of help for his LD from a private tutor and his special education teacher, his parents pushed him to go to college. Since both his mom and dad had advanced degrees in science, they could not understand why he dropped out of the university after 2 years. His mom helped him find a job as a Sterilization Tech in a local pharmaceutical lab that she thought would encourage him to purse a career in science. Instead, he is close to total burn-out and never, never wants to see a test tube again.

Scenario #2: Financial Wellbeing

Susie just can't seem to dig herself out of debt. No matter what she tries to do, she never has enough money, despite a good salary as a condominium manager. Susies loves her job because she likes her co-workers and interacting everyday with the various owners. But....she also loves QVC, Target, Walmart, the Dollar Store, and every Garage Sale that she can find. Right now, her house and garage are full of stuff and she has outstanding balances on 7 credit cards to prove it. Susie has always had problems with goal setting and setting priorities due to her learning disabilities. As a result, she stays up nights wondering how she is going to pay her bills. She just can't figure out how to do it and is thinking of borrowing money again from her sister to makes ends meet.

Scenario #3: Physical Wellbeing

Because of her invisible disability, Jody constantly feels stressed out. She has been to 5 different doctors--all of whom tell her that her continual problems with headaches, heart disease, high blood sugar, dizziness, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are due to anxiety and stress. None of them see that her dyslexia may have anything to do with her symptoms. Jody's family and friends are really tired of hearing her complain about her physical problems. They just want her to "get over it". Jody is feeling sorry for herself more and more, as she is sick of taking pills and feeling like nobody understands her.

Scenario #5: Social/community Connections

Alicia has always had trouble fitting in. Whether she is at work, at home, or in the community, people just seem to avoid her. Ever since she was a child, she has always trouble communicating with others. People would mis-understand what she't trying to say or lose patience with her, due to her dyslexia. For instance, not only does she have problems decoding written symbols but she also struggles to de-code humor or social cues. In addition, stress appears to make Alicia's word retrieval problems worse, when she tries to share her thoughts or reactions with others. She often feels lonely and spends lots of time by herself watching movies and videos.


Scenario #6: Psychological/ Emotional Wellbeing

Bobby always seemed to be in trouble with someone. As a kid growing up, his grades were poor in reading, writing, and spelling because of his dyslexia. His teachers continually told his parents that he was smart, but "he just wouldn't apply himself". For instance, due to poor coordination, he was really bad at sports. Nonetheless, his dad pushed him and pushed him to try out for the high school football team. When Bobby got on the team, he spent lots of time fighting with everyone. In fact, he even showed up at the stadium drunk and tried to drive his car on the field to hit one of his team-mates. He barely graduated from high school and is now in college, where he rarely goes to class. Instead, he is running up a huge tuition debt as he spends most of his time drinking and partying. Most of the people that he drinks and does drugs with don't seem to care at all what a failure he is at school or at home.




Tips and Tricks

Talking to folks with LD and dyslexia, plus what we have in the extant literature base, clearly tells me the importance of social wellness to a happy adult life. But, how do you make social wellness work for you? Here's some simple, easy, free tips to get you started:


Tip #1: Gratitude

Nothing makes you feel better than feeling better. Sounds silly, doesn't it? But, this is one simple truth that works over and over again. Whenever you are in a bad place, like the adults with LD in the scenarios above, feeling rotten can quickly become a vicious cycle. For instance, going to a job you hate or looking at your credit card bills again can be the trigger to ruin your day and negate your social wellness. However, the reverse is also true.

Never, never underestimate the power of gratitude. I've found it's like getting a Vitamin B shot when you've got the flu--it's a quick, easy way to make you feel much better right away. Just click below to get you started:


Here's a couple of my favorites: putting things in perspective, writing a gratitude letter, using a gratitude trigger, and connecting with a gratitude partner. Let me know if any of these work for you.....


Tip #2: Kindness

Who would have guessed: Kindness is Power! Kindness seems such a simple, little thing that we too often overlook in this busy, out-of-control world. For instance, research has shown that kindness reduces absenteeism and workers burning out at work. Being kind to others in any setting promotes higher self-esteem and happiness (Sewer, Nault, & Klein, 2021). In fact, there's a scientific basis for this. Studies has shown that any act of kindness produces a hormone called oxytocin. This protects the cardiovascular system, acts as an antioxidant, and reduces inflation. In addition, researchers found that oxytocin can also increase wound healing, slow the aging process, and even elevate your mood (Vild, 2021). Now that's powerful stuff! Plus, if you are kind to someone else, you get a double whammy--you feel better and you make others feel better at the same time. All of this doubles the potential of your social wellness. If you need more proof, try a few of the activities listed below:

You can start easy with kindness. Try one or two activities per week and see what happens. Pretty soon, you'll be a kindness junkie--just like me.


Tip #3: What Gifts Do You Bring to the Table?

Researchers have reported again and again that having a learning disability or dyslexia can result in low self-esteem or poor self-concept (CITATIONS). In fact, most of the adults that I interviewed with these invisible disorders repeatedly shared feelings of frustration, embarrassment, anxiety, and shame because they saw themselves as "failures". While clearly not all people with LD or dyslexia see themselves in this distorted lens, unfortunately far too many do. This disturbing trend is further reinforced by the school, work, or family environment around them where no one seems to understand what LD or dyslexia is. Moreover, people with LD or dyslexia can tell you every mistake they have made, but frequently can't talk about their strengths or their achievements. So, how does all of this tie into social wellness?

Adults who practice social wellness are growing their own self esteem and promoting their own mental health as successful adults. And, the best part of this tip is that you can do all this for yourself! For instance, have you ever been lost and seem to be going repeatedly down the wrong street? The more lost you get, the more frustrated and angry you get as well. Well, if you are constantly hearing the tape in your head or people in your environment telling you what you did wrong today/what a failure you've always been--you're going down the wrong street! The website below will get you back on the right street to find out what you've done right and where you want to go.


For instance, instead of brooding on what you did wrong, think about when you saw the "big picture" at work or school, when nobody else did. Remember an example of when you really felt someone else's pain and tried to make them feel better. Ask yourself, "What is my passion?" or "What am I really curious about?". You may take these questions for granted, but believe me, few people are as empathetic, passionate, or curious as you. Most folks can't simplify complex ideas like you or cut through the irrelevant details like you do. For more ways to see yourself in a new light, google: Dyslexia as a Gift.

Tip #4: Mindfulness

So, who cares about mindfulness anyway? We all have such busy lives full of confusion, anxiety, and general craziness that stopping to practice a little bit of mindfulness seems silly at best. On top of that, if you are a person with LD or dyslexia, your life has even more complicated layers. I don't have to tell you about the daily challenges of trying to understand what someone is saying or trying to follow directions you don't understand. Maybe, you have a devil of a time organizing anything or seem clumsy all of the time. Perhaps, you can't remember things when you want to or have problems paying attention. All of these are signs of an invisible disability that no one seems to understand or care about. All of that also leads to more craziness in your life, along with more frustration, anxiety, and stress.

But, think about this instead: What if you had the tool to break that negative cycle? Mindfulness can do that for you! As the Staff from Mindfulness (2020) report, "Studies reveal that mindfulness may reduce anxiety and depression, boost your immune system, help you manage pain, allow you to unhook from unhealthy habits and addictions, soothe insomnia, reduce high blood pressure, and even change the structure and function of your brain in positive ways—perhaps in as little as 8 weeks of practice." Wow--what else do you need? Add to that, it's free and you can do it anytime or anyplace. Plus, it's a great way to increase your social wellness and overall quality of life. So, check out the info below and see what you think. For lots of other ideas, google: Mindfulness Activities for Adults.


Tip #5: Wellness at Work

Unless you've won the lottery recently or have very rich relatives, you probably spend a lot of time in the workplace. In fact on average, most folks spend over 1/3 of their lives at work. That translates into over 90,000 hours in a person's lifetime (Gettysburg College, 2021). Clearly, the time you spend on your job--whether online, in the office, or on the road--can be a critical factor to your social wellness. That also means there are ways to make that time more productive for your employer--even if it's you--as well as make it a more positive experience on a daily basis. While the website below sees social wellness from an employer's perspective, many ideas can be easily adapted to fit what you do. For instance, take a "Mindfulness" break at work or shut the door to your office and do a few yoga exercises instead of eating junk food; find a colleague that you like a lot and send them a joke every day for a week, then ask them to do the same thing for you; schedule a walking meeting instead of sitting in a boring conference room, etc. You can also google for more ideas: How To Be Happy In A Job You Hate.


Resources?




References







Transition Connection








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