Cultivating social circles
An academic campus provides an environment with immense opportunities to explore, experience, and create lasting social circles. Did you ever think about the fact that these social circles have the capacity to grow with you throughout your lifetime? Healthy friendships that last over the course of time can shape your life in many beneficial ways.
Why Is Cultivating Sustainable Social Circles Beneficial?
Sustainable social circles can establish an anchor for emotional well being, as well as being linked to increased longevity, such as in the Blue Zones , where people also live healthier and happier lives. Some other benefits include:
- Experiencing all the stages of life together. Priceless.
- Providing different perspectives, opportunities, and resources.
- A shared support system during challenging times.
- A shared history no else can understand.
- Helping us decompress and de-stress.
- Giving us a reality check when our behaviors aren’t exactly exemplary.
- Encouraging us when there is doubt, and helping us be the best version of ourselves.
What Does a Sustainable Social Circle Look Like?
Being able to identify a healthy circle of friends can be challenging at times, no matter our age. Sometimes we simply get fooled by the masks people can wear. Below are some elements that may help us assess whether a social relationship has the potential to be sustainable. These elements can be applied to a romantic partnership as well, where friendship is foundational to its health and wellbeing.
- It’s safe and fun to be you.
- They display respect for their own wellbeing, and their behaviors follow.
- No emotional game playing, hidden agendas, lies, or manipulation.
- Authentic in who they are (meaning no signs of consistently conflicting behavior)
- Share common interests, but can also bring to the table different/novel interests.
- Can disagree peacefully and acknowledge one another’s perspective without judgement.
- Ability to forgive and move forward without resentment.
- Capacity to listen, and give developmental feedback if feedback is wanted.
- Mutual respect, including of one’s boundaries and beliefs.
- Integrity, honesty, confidentiality, and trust.
Can We Have A Sustainable Social Circle Beyond Our Peers?
It’s natural for us to think about building a sustainable social circle with our peers. What about a mentor? Think about someone you look up to, or whose life perspective you appreciate, or simply makes you energized by being around them. Consider these options beyond your peers:
- There is great value in a younger person being mentored by an older person:
- Older individuals can have a wealth of wisdom to share. In many countries this tradition is alive and well and plays a significant role in creating sustainable social circles.
- Younger generations can benefit from the knowledge passed on to them from older generations often bringing more awareness to the choices they are faced with in their lives.
- Older individuals can provide perspective that a younger person may not be able to see due to lack of life experience.
- Consider an older person being mentored by a younger person. What?! Yes, older individuals can learn from younger individuals:
- There is a certain perspective in each generation we can benefit from in trying to understand their world.
- Younger individuals can help older individuals navigate the unfamiliar in our ever evolving world. No one likes to feel left out, unfortunately, we can allow this to happen, because we don’t understand or we lack familiarity.
- A continually learning brain can help a brain stay fit.
- A younger person possesses an energy that can be contagious and invigorating.
There are people who come and go in our life for various reasons, some out of our control, or simply as a by-product of a known temporary situation. Sometimes we feel neutral or positive about it, and other times it hurts, potentially resulting in gaining a different perspective about a person or situation. These can all be realities of life. However, we can increase the chances of healthy sustainable relationships if we seek to be more mindful in the process of creating our social circles. We can also start with the assessing of our own social wellness, giving us insight to the type of friend we might be.
Challenge yourself to make YOU a priority! Seven is a free program from Health Promotion and Wellness for students, faculty, and staff that focuses on the importance of the seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, and vocational. Seven runs from September to the end of April, and you can join at any time. Participants log wellness activities to earn points toward monthly prize drawings and compete toward end of the year overall point totals. Participants also receive the Seven e-newsletter and information on campus wellness events.
For additional details and to sign up, visit Wellness.IllinoisState.edu/Seven.