How does your social life impact your health?


Humans, by nature, are social beings, and therefore socialization is a key factor in one's mental health. In this regard, individuals have what is called "social health," which affects both their mental and physical health as well. Social individuals have been found to live longer and recover from illness faster than those who don't have a high degree of social health. There are two main aspects to our social health: the "microlevel" and the "macrolevel."

The first includes person-to-person interaction meaning, healthy relationships with family, friends and co-workers, and interactions with strangers. The ways individuals deal with conflict and communicate with others are all aspects of how people function socially. That is why the importance of one's social circle is vocalized; it directly affects social health. Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something, whether that is a family or an organization, and these relationships lead to overall success and health.

Alfred Adler, a notable psychologist, had a key concept called "social interest." This translates in German to "gemeinschaftsgefuhl," meaning "community feeling." This contrasts to one's private interests or concerns. An individual's lifestyle is the set of personal narratives one has created in order to cope with "being in the world." If there is social interest, then an individual demonstrates a "useful" lifestyle. Without it, then one is "self-absorbed" and is concerned only with one's self. Such a lifestyle is considered "useless."

The condition of being useless is not pathological. A person doesn't necessarily have a defined set of psychological symptoms. Rather, the person "uses" them in dealings with others and lives within their parameters, confinements and restraints. The person believes there needs to be some form of benefit to positioning them and that their life would change for the worse if they weren't able to do so. In this sense neurosis is a form of reality evasion. According to Kronemyer, "The useless person is not sick, rather just 'discouraged' because the dysfunctional relationships he/she has developed result in loss of social functioning and subjective mental distress."

Adler's theory and application begins with the evaluation of one's "family constellation," which is the set of circumstances into which an individual is born, including gender and birth order. Following this is an individual's "early recollections," which are developmental events that dynamically influence the growth and development of one's personality. These will lead to concluding one's "basic mistakes," which are conceptual errors or ways of being. One routinely endorses them, or uses them as a basis for action, as part of one's lifestyle. One also will be able to identify and inventory one's "assets," which are accomplishments or successful instances of orientation toward others and projects that are not self-centered.

Adler identifies the source of basic mistakes as an "inferiority complex." The inferiority complex is more than just cognition or an attitude. It is a form of self-centeredness, which is also self-defeating. Only after recognizing an individual's basic mistakes and taking action to ease them can one then have a useful lifestyle. Undeveloped or underdeveloped social interest is demonstrated by poor performance of basic life tasks. Reorienting oneself to pursue social interest, in turn, reorganizes one's lifestyle and enables that individual to avoid committing further basic mistakes. No one wants to be considered to be "useless."


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