Social Support

What is social support?

Social support is having people you can count on for emotional support, advice, and practical help in times of need. Support often comes from family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. It means not feeling alone, “outside of things,” or lonely. It helps you feel better about yourself. It also has many health benefits. For example, it can help you:

  • Be happier and less likely to get depressed
  • Be healthier, such as by lowering your blood pressure
  • Live longer

There are different kinds of support:

  • Emotional support and the sharing of life experiences
  • Services or supplies provided to you when you are in need
  • Advice, suggestions, and information to help you solve problems

How can I build social support?

Start by looking at your current relationships.

  • Do you have someone you can call on when you are upset?
  • Do you have people with whom you do things just for fun?
  • Do you have people who will care for you in practical way, like giving you a ride or lending you money if you need it?
  • Do you have people you talk to just to see how they are doing?

Make friendships and relationships an important part of your life. Make time for friends and reach out to other people. Don’t be afraid to offer support or to ask for help when you need it. Everyone needs help and support sometimes.

  • Join community or church groups and attend local events and family get-togethers.
  • Volunteer. Get involved in a cause that is important to you.
  • Join a gym or start a walking group in your neighborhood.
  • Take a course at your local college.
  • Look online for “meet-up” groups that will put you in contact with others who share similar interests or hobbies. Accept invitations, even if it feels awkward and difficult at first. Strike up conversations with strangers. You could be meeting a new friend. Smile, call people by name, ask them questions about themselves, look them in the eye, and remember things about them.
  • Be a good listener. Ask questions and clarify what someone means. Express interest in what others are doing. Don’t be afraid to listen to others in distress and to let others know you care and are there for them. Avoid giving advice. Just be there.
  • Don’t wait to be invited somewhere. Rather than getting frustrated because your friends don’t include you in their activities, you might say, “I miss spending time with you. Let’s get together for dinner or a movie.”
  • Don’t give up on existing relationships. Settle past differences and start with a clean slate. Do what you can to keep in touch.
  • Spend time with people who help you feel accepted and supported, not pressured or tense.

If you feel you cannot talk things through with friends or family, find a support group. Support groups can help you know that you are not alone. Groups also provide a safe place to share feelings.

Your support network may also include a mental health therapist or counselor who can help you feel heard and understood.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-28
Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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