At different times in our lives, we lean on family, friends, and even coworkers. We commiserate over shared experiences—like the stress that comes from a new job and that not-so-amazing boss or the addition of kids, and also sad times like the relationship or friendship breakups we go through with partners (hello, lots of tissue, crying, and heart-mending) or the wonderful, happy times like weddings and births. We rely on the comfort and support system we’ve built to help us get through life.
We find camaraderie in sharing memes about work, calling our best friend to check-in every week, and venting about even more personal events, like the loss of a loved one or a miscarriage. We know that it’s crucial to have social support as we travel through ups and downs.
That day-to-day support is also one of the most important tools to our weight care journey. It’s hard to have a sustainable weight care journey without a circle of social support—people in your inner circle who support you and your needs, cheer you on, and remind you who you are. Here’s how to begin looking at your relationships, identifying people you feel will be there for you, and recruiting their help in healthy ways.
Why social support is so important
Isolation and loneliness can cause a host of health issues. Many of us in the semi post-pandemic world have experienced both of these things and were able to get through it with the help of others—knowing many other people felt the same way. When we don’t have a supportive group of people or even that one close person, we’re at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and mental illness.
Even more alarming is that research suggests loneliness and isolation lead to the same risks as smoking. "Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits. In addition, loneliness has been found to raise levels of stress, impede sleep and, in turn, harm the body. Loneliness can also augment depression or anxiety," a 2016 study led by Newcastle University epidemiologist Nicole Valtorta, PhD, explains. Having people who care about you is essential for your quality of life.
There are other major benefits associated with having a close network. An important one is the encouragement you need to stick with your weight care journey and talk through the difficult—seemingly impossible sometimes—time that comes with it. Having a partner who supports your healthy lifestyle changes will be a huge part of your success through encouragement and praise for those wins. When you do face challenges, they can be there to boost your self-esteem and remind you how truly great you are. Additionally, you’ll stay motivated if you have a friend who’s trying to attain the same goals as you.
How to strengthen your social connections
We know the significance of having a support team around you, but there’s ways to strengthen those bonds and foster relationships to bring the most joy to your life. A study that followed participants over the course of 20 years found that a person’s level of happiness was related to the happiness of their social networks. If a person had a happy friend who lived within a mile, the person themselves was 25 percent more likely to be happy as well. In addition, it found that a person’s happiness can be related to the happiness of someone separated by up to three degrees (a friend of a friend of a friend). Meaning, fulfillment is directly correlated to those sustainable relationships and support systems, not just immediately, but throughout your lifetime. Here’s a few ways to cultivate your relationships:
Make a short list of friends and family members who are supportive and positive. We also recommend writing a list of people you feel the need to stay in contact with regularly like parents, a close friend, an adult child who lives far away, or an aging relative.
Commit to call, email or get together with them on a schedule that’s reasonable for you. Try to reach out to make at least one emotional connection a day—but be realistic with yourself and schedule. If you have family and friends who aren’t close by, try FaceTime, Skype or Facebook. Social media is another great way to keep up-to-date and post updates about your own life and health journey.
Share honestly and openly. Be authentic about your concerns in a straight-forward way. It can be difficult to voice our thoughts sometimes, but try to let them know what you need from them in a loving way. When calling for a vent session, ask if they’re in the right mental space to hear about what’s going on, and vice versa. Ask if they’d like feedback for their issue or crises, help solving a problem, a fresh perspective, new ideas or just a good laugh and a sympathetic ear. When asking for help with your health journey, be sincere and show them you value their opinion.
When you talk, also listen. Ask about someone else’s day, or follow up on the topic of a previous conversation. Showing sincere interest in another person’s life builds relationships and listening to other people’s concerns can often shed a new light on your own challenges.
Grabbing coffee with a coworker, a call to your mom, or a quick chat with a neighbor are all forms of building your support network. It doesn’t need to be formal to begin fostering a relationship with those people around you. With those conversations, you also may find that they’re on a similar health journey as you, and you can tailor those chats around progress and emotional check-ins.
If you’re having trouble connecting with people, try these tipsto build your social support network:
Lean on a Found Coach. They’re ultimately there to be your guide and compass, and can offer additional support.
Take a class. Try a fun cooking class, sign up for free yoga in your area, or often-times local community colleges will have free language courses you can take.
Join Facebook pages that support your shared health and fitness journey beliefs. Found members can join our private Found Facebook group.
Volunteer. Find a cause you believe in and try volunteering in your spare time. If your time is limited, search for one that fits your schedule. Helping will give you a purpose and assist you in making new friends.
Found members get the advantage of a holistic approach to weight care, with the combination of prescription medication for those who qualify and one-on-one behavioral coaching with a certified health coach. Found Coaches help members track their progress, set and accomplish goals, address roadblocks, and celebrate success. Take the quiz to get started on your weight care journey with Found.