Social wellbeing has long been thought for study within sociological circles and, recently became a topic of international relevance. This might be because we were truly confronted with forced non-social activities during the pandemic where we could not freely interact with our communities and social circles. It is further argued that perhaps now, social actualisation should be ranked alongside self-actualisation when we use the Maslow hierarchy as a basis for human needs.

Social Actualisation and Social Wellbeing

Why is this such an important topic for holistic wellbeing – the actualisation of our social network to ensure optimal health? Let us examine the sociology and psychology theories behind social actualisation.

Attachment theory

Attachment is the bond that we create with specific people. This theory explains the development of different bonds throughout our lifetimes with different people – friends, family, and partners. The result of attachment is the sense of security and comfort within a relationship. Surely, that comfort and security are different for each relationship you have but it is all secured within trust.

Belonging

The social nature of humanity requires that we need to belong – we need to develop and sustain significant relationships with others. Yes, some will be more significant than others but the presence of relationships is closely linked to our subjective wellbeing. Evidence from research shows that belongingness enhances cognitive processes, emotions and behaviours whilst the absence of belonging has been linked to feelings of anxiety, depression and therefore ultimately poor health conditions. 

Relationships Motivation Theory (RMT)

This theory posits that it is not just the presence of important relationships, but the quality of those relationships that makes a difference. This links to self-determination theory which states that humans have three psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. RMT, therefore, requires that for the experience of autonomy, relationships must be satisfying and add value to the person in some way.

Social coherence (wellbeing)

This theory relates specifically to the ability of an individual to focus on social duties we face and how well we balance our individual and social worlds. This is where we focus on prosocial emotions and prosocial behaviour. Let us discuss this in more detail.

Prosocial emotions

Prosocial emotions refer to the emotions that arise when someone has benefited us on a social level. These emotions (like gratitude) are coined to go beyond the individual realm and provide ‘group’ emotional connections as it strengthens bonds and connectedness. These emotions, therefore, allow compassion, either for others or for self. The positivity associated with these emotions is motivational and plays a key part in our sense of belonging and acceptance.

Prosocial behaviour

Kindness could be related to prosocial behaviour. Kindness is a behaviour aspect created within relationships between givers and receivers. Acts of kindness are known to increase happiness or at the very least, gratitude.

So now what – we spend most of our days at work and we know that there must be professional behaviour within the workplace. How do we translate these critical elements to our holistic well-being in the workplace without jeopardising the codes of conduct we should strive to adhere to?

Social actualisation and the workplace

A study conducted regarding gratitude practices in the organisation showed that organisations that implement gratitude interventions in their organisational culture show an enhancement in job satisfaction from their employees. 

High-quality connections within the organisation, the essence of effective teams, allow not only for employee development but also a key feature in cooperation and trustworthiness between colleagues. Linked to these are increased performance and health (less absenteeism). This is something that the organisation should consider within their wellness programmes.

Improving social wellness

Critically evaluating your social interactions and the value these add to your life, seems like a very academic exercise. What we should be doing is being honest. Honestly seeing why we allow people into our lives and the time we spend with others might be a place to start. 

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. The fact that you are reading this post, on a computer (maybe using your battery and not power) via an email link sent to you means that you have MANY things to be grateful for. 

Be kind to others – not only to those who are kind to you – but to everybody. Kindness costs nothing and it does not make you weak. The weakness lies within those who assume that they can take your kindness to their advantage – which says much more about those who will use kindness than it says about you, who is the kind one.

Cultivate, activate and appreciate those relationships that add value to your life – those positive emotions add value to every aspect of your wellness. You carry your wellness in your hands…

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