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How Social Support Improves Mental Health

July 22, 2020

Being around our friends, family, and coworkers almost feels strange now. Gone are the days of group outings to our favorite restaurants. We can’t remember the last time we watched a movie in a theater.

While remaining socially distant during a pandemic is good for our physical health, the loneliness of social isolation has taken a toll on even the healthiest of us. In fact, there is scientific evidence that backs this up.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how social support improves mental health and what you can do to build your support system and stay in touch.

Social Support and Mental Health

Science tells us that having social support has the following positive impacts on our mental health:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • Prevention of trauma related mental illnesses
  • Lowered consequences of conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder

Additionally, having a social support network can reinforce positive behaviors and help us feel motivated to reach our goals.

How You Can Provide Social Support

There are many different ways to support our friends and loved ones. Support can be emotional, instrumental, or informational. Here are a few examples:

Emotional Support

If you have ever offered a friend a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on, then you have given them emotional support. Emotional support can help a friend get through a tough time or stressful situation.

Instrumental Support

Instrumental support takes care of our physical needs. Offering to send a meal or letting them borrow your car are just some examples of instrumental support. When a friend has urgent needs, instrumental support can be incredibly helpful.

Informational Support

Informational support comes in the form of advice or guidance. Perhaps a friend is wanting to change jobs. Giving them advice on where to begin their job search and how to update their resume is a type of informational support.

How to Build Your Support System

Whether we’re coping with stress, social isolation and loneliness, or simply wanting to have friends we can rely on, building a support system is an important step. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they offer good advice when you ask?
  • Do they help you take action when needed?
  • Do they like, respect, and trust others in your support system?
  • Do they let you freely express your thoughts and feelings?
  • Do they work with you to come up with solutions?
  • Do they have your best interest in mind?

You can also explore joining a support group. Support groups can be facilitated by a therapist, pastor, or community organizer. They are a place where people with similar life experiences can relate to each other.

Finding Support While Social Distancing

Social distancing has made routine get-togethers more complicated. However, because of technology like mobile phones and computers, there are many ways to stay connected.

Make a commitment to text, call, or video chat your friends and loved ones often. You don’t have to wait until you feel stressed to reach out for support. Sometimes, just chatting and catching up can make us feel connected to those we care for most.


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