Welcome back to the Do It Yourself Depression Treatment Program.
My name is Philip Andersson. I am a psychotherapist and the founder of Wherapy.
In the last lesson, I spoke about the first pillar of good mental health, the biological factors. There, I taught you about the importance of eating habits, sleeping habits, routines, hygiene and exercise, when it comes to fighting depression. I also gave you some advice on what you can do in each of these five subcategories, in order to raise your likelihood of overcoming depression.
In this lesson, I am going to talk about the second pillar of good mental health, namely the social factors.
Why You Need A Good Social Network
Now there are many things to consider when it comes to the social factors of mental health but in essence it comes down to two main points; how your social network affects your self-esteem and your social network’s ability to aid you practically in your day-to-day life.
Humans are social in nature. There are several studies that show that interactions with other human beings raises our dopamine levels. In some cases, simply seeing another human’s face can make us happy.
So the need for a social network in this sense is undeniable. That is not the issue. The issue is, what quality of social network you have.
If you are surrounded by people who are negative, passive aggressive and have a habit of keeping you down, then that social network is of no use to you. A good social network consists of supportive people who you enjoy being with and tell you the truth when you need to hear it.
There are many people who claim that they don’t want a social network and that they prefer to be alone and there are some personality types and certain types of diagnosis that are suited to a more solitary lifestyle.
However, the majority of these people have only experienced the type of social network that is negative. If they had experienced a social network of supportive people who had accepted them for who they were, then they would have wanted to have access to that social network even if they are the type of person who prefers to be alone for the most part.
One aspect of social networks that is overlooked is their practical use. Your social network, whether it be friends or family or both, can, for example, help you move house, recommend a good restaurant, a good lawyer, show you how to get around town, show you how to open a bank account and much more.
In other words, a social network is about more than just having fun, it’s about practical support. And therefore, the lack of a social network can be considered a disability in the sense that you are less able to meet your basic needs without one.
Now that we have looked at the reasons for having a social network, let’s take a look at what your social network should consist of. How many people are enough? What type of people do you need?
What Type Of Social Network Do You Need?
It’s easy to think that the bigger the social network the better but in truth the bigger your social network is the higher the likelihood that the connection you have to certain members of that network is weak. In other words, there’s a natural limit to the amount of people that you can invest your time and energy in. From my experience, that figure is about 6.
The first rule when considering people for your social network is that they should be people that you enjoy spending time with. Spending time with this person should leave you feeling like you have gained something rather than lost something.
Then we have the practical aspect to consider. As I mentioned earlier, a good social network can consist of both friends and family members of varying ages and with various expertise. Whilst a young friend supports you practically in your day-to-day life, an older family member might be more suited to give you advice and help you reflect on your problems.
How Do I Build A Social Network From Scratch?
So, how do we go about creating a social network if we don’t already have one?
That depends. You might be new to town, have your family living far away and have no friends where you’re living. Or, you might have a few people that you know but not enough to consider a social network.
If you’re creating a social network from scratch, then it’s going to take time. Taking a goal oriented approach to creating a social network, as opposed to letting it grow naturally, will also cause the process to take more time. Unfortunately, as an adult with little to no social network, we have little choice but to take the goal oriented approach and making new friends as an adult is difficult.
What I want you to do is to make a list to see if there are any people in your social network as is and if so, what role they have. If you are taking this course as a part of our subscription service Wherapy+ then there will be a worksheet at the bottom of this page, which you can use.
If you want to grow your social network, making new connections through the people that are already in your social network is a good place to start.
If you have no social network then a good way of building it is by taking a look at the interests you have. This is a particularly good way of growing the type of social network that is going to raise your self-esteem.
During this process, you will find that members of your social network will start off as sources of self-esteem and, over time, will grow to become the type of people that can offer you practical help as well.
So by making a list of your interests, and by finding activities in your area that suit those interests, you will be one step closer to finding the first member of your social network.
Other ways of growing your social network is by looking into the people that you work with and also by building a stronger connection to your relatives.
The most important thing to understand is that growing a social network takes a lot of time and energy. It is also the aspect of mental health that most people give up on. And, as I have stated at the start of this course, maintaining all three pillars (social factors included) is essential to good mental health.
So I want to leave you with a challenge. Start by making a list of the people already in your social network. Then make a list of your interests. And then try to grow your social network by one person until we meet for our final lesson, whether that be by going to activities that align with your interests, or through work or relatives.
That’s A Wrap For Today!
A transcript of this video has been provided on this page. Feel free to look back at it whenever you need to. For those of you who have signed up to Wherapy+ (a subscription service that offers online mental health courses) worksheets will be available as well.
Now do your best to work on the social factors and I’ll see you next week to talk about the psychological factors of mental health.