July is social wellness month, and just as it was with spiritual wellness, there are certain cultural and historical reasons why social wellness is “in the cards” for many people in the Land of Enchantment, but not for others.Two new phenomena–Social Mediia and Social Networking sites are profoundly influencing what “social wellness” is all about.
Social wellness (health) traditionally is the ability to get along and interact in an effective way with others—whether they are in one’s family, neighborhood, city, country, online, or in the world–while at the same time appreciating the diversity of people and maintaining satisfying relationships with them. Clearly, having healthy social relationships is key for one’s mental wellness. For example, researchers have found that loneliness can lead to disease and depression and benefits not only you, but also the health the people in your life and the community or the entire world as a whole.
The path towards social wellness in well travelled in New Mexico for reasons that include:
- Its history of Native Americans:“Within the cosmos, which the people of the nineteen ancient Indian Pueblos scattered throughout the state view as a single whole, all living creatures are mutually dependent. Thus, every relationship a human being may have, whether with a person, animal, or even plant, has spiritual (and social) significance,” according to Frommer’s, a well-known travel guide.
- Its large Hispanic population: “The Hispanic family is “like cultural super-glue,” according to Dr. Antonio N. Zavaleta, Vice President of External Affairs at the University of Texas, Brownsville. “The social network of family and family involvement with the individual is critical to the emotional and physical well being of the individual, the family and the community at large.”
- Its abundant natural resources: Social wellness is also about harmony with nature, as well as family, others in the community, and others in the world. “The pursuit of social wellness may involve actions to protect or preserve the environment or contribute to the health and well-being of the community by performing volunteer work,” says medical writer Barbara Wexler in her fascinating book, Health and Wellness: Illness Among Americans. Combining social, environmental, and spiritual health trends, The Aldo Leopold Foundation, a not-for-profit that works to weave a land ethic into the fabric of our society,” with deep roots in New Mexico, this past week in Albuquerque on July 27-28, held a ”Land Ethic Leaders Program” course at the Bosque School to help people learn how to help others “think about complex and changing environmental issues and new ways to discuss our collective values and vision (and) how to lead reflective discussions using literature, films like Green Fire as a starting point for such conversations.”
The recent growth in the popularity and use of Social Networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and Social Media sites, such as YouTube.com and Flikr.com, have shaken up and redefined the concept of social wellness all over the world. While people used to communicate only face to face or occasionally on the telephone, nowadays many people do most of their social activity on the Internet.
These two phenomena (social media and social networking) have a powerful effect on social health in the family, in the community, and globally. People are now more interconnected, and so their health is also in some ways interconnected, as we will soon see in Part 2 of this Social Wellness article.