Ten Ways to Build Your Social Support Network
By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MS/LIS
Posted August 22, 2017
What is a Social Support Network?
A Social Support Network may include your family members, friends, or co-workers who offer you genuine emotional support.
A Social Support Network is different from a support group, which is generally a structured meeting run by a health professional.
Why is a Social Support Network Important?
Scientific studies show that having a strong Social Support Network contributes to mental and physical well-being.
Having strong social support can improve your self-esteem and sense of self-direction. In fact, knowing that you have strong social support can make you more able to cope with problems on your own.
How Do You Start to Build a Social Support Network?
You do not need a large network of friends and family to benefit from social support, according to the American Psychological Association. Your Social Support Network might be a small group of people whom you like and trust.
The goal of your Social Support Network is to reduce your stress level, according to Mayo Clinic staff. So, watch for persons who, in general, are positive, not constantly critical.
Build Your Social Support Network
- Give Social Support.
Some studies have shown that to stay healthy in mind and body, it may be more important to give social support to friends and family than to receive it. So, reach out to lend a hand, or to just say, Hello.
- Make the First Move.
If you meet someone you think might become a good friend, invite him or her to join you for coffee, or another casual activity.
- Stay in Touch.
Answer phone calls and reply to e-mail messages. If someone offers you an invitation and you accept, offer one in return, to let persons know that you care.
- Pay Attention.
Be a good listener. Let persons know that you are paying attention, by asking questions or by commenting on what they say.
- Celebrate Accomplishments.
When your friends succeed, be happy for them. Celebrate without envy or competition.
- Show Appreciation.
Take time to say, Thank You, in person or in a written note. Let friends and family know that you appreciate their thoughtfulness. Be there for them when they need support.
- Practice Problem-Solving.
First, try to find ways to solve a problem on your own. Be careful not to overwhelm friends and family.
- Join a Community Activity or Recreation Center.
You can make friends while you are exercising in a class or walking on a trail.
Think of a cause that is important to you and get involved with persons who share similar interests and values.
- Visit Your Public Library.
Reference Librarians may help you to find safe local clubs or community groups that meet regularly and match your personal interests.
Research shows that persons who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer.
So, do not wait to build your Social Support Network. Begin now.
Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your medical doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor.
Selected Information Resources
American Psychological Association. APA Help Center. Manage Stress: Strengthen Your Support Network.
Summary Note: Article draws from the APA annual nationwide public survey, called, Stress in America, released in February 2017. Suggests six ways to increase your social support, by both providing and receiving help in our personal interactions.
(Accessed 19 August 2017)
American Psychological Association. Stress in America: Coping with Change. APA Annual Survey: Part 1 and Part 2. Released, 2017.
Summary Note: Survey identifies leading sources of stress among the general public. Part 2 focuses on stress related to Technology and Social Media. Links to topic-specific APA press releases.
(Accessed 21 August 2017)
Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., Turner, R.B., Doyle, W.J. Does Hugging Provide Stress-Buffering Social Support? A Study of Susceptibility to Upper Respiratory Infection and Illness. Psychological Science. 2015 Feb; 26(2):135-47.
Summary Note: Using a sample of 404 healthy adults, authors examined the roles of perceived social support and received hugs in buggering against interpersonal stress-induced susceptibility to a virus that causes a common cold. Among infacted participants, more-frequent hugs predicted less-severe illness signs. HHS Public Access provides free Full Text article via PubMedCentral.
(Full Text accessed 21 August 2017)
Mayo Clinic. Healthy Lifestyle. Stress Management.
Summary Note: Article discusses benefits of having a network of supportive relationships. Offers practical approaches for building and maintaining your relationships. Includes References.
(Accessed 16 August 2017)
National Institutes of Health. NIH News in Health: A monthly newsletter from the NIH, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 2017. Do Social Ties Affect Our Health? Exploring the Biology of Relationships.
Summary Note: Reviews scientific studies showing that people who have larger and more diverse types of social ties tend to have better physical and mental health than people with fewer such relationships. Gives examples of how kindness in social environments, versus hostility in social environments, affects personal health
(Accessed 20 July 2017)
Reblin, M. and Uchino, B. Social and Emotional Support and Its Implication for Health. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2008 March; 21(2):201-205.
Summary Note: Summarizes research findings from selected publications focusing on links between social support and physical health. HHS Public Access provides free Full Text article via PubMed Central.
(Full Text accessed 20 August 2017)