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The process of building habits

Guide to self-development (Part 6)

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Aina Masood

Something we are all familiar with is that human beings are social animals. This reflects our deep need for belongingness and reliance on others to cultivate a happier, healthier, and meaningful life. Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, stressed our need for belongingness and rendered it essential to reaching our full potential as human beings. Our social relationships and interactions make up for a sizable chunk of our day, and the quality of such interactions has a powerful impact on our mental and emotional well-being. Hence, creating and supporting healthy relationships in life is a big part of bettering ourselves.

What is social wellness/health?

It is defined simply as our ability to interact with others, form meaningful relationships, adapt comfortably to different social situations, and express ourselves. Having positive social habits can help us build a social support system that has been shown in the literature as a substantial positive contributing factor to mental wellness.

Importance of social relationships in life as an expat

One of the biggest challenges of living as an expatriate is lacking social support and difficulty finding “your people”. When we move to another country or even a city, we uproot our social relationships and must build them again from the ground up. This process takes time and is relatively slower if you are not a student. It requires us to put ourselves out of the known and comfortable and be vulnerable. It can be emotionally taxing, making building healthy social relationships as an expat even more essential.

One of the biggest challenges of living as an expatriate is lacking social support and difficulty finding "your people".

How can you know that you are socially healthy?

Some signs that you can use to identify if you are socially healthy include the following:

  • Being your authentic self most of the times

  • Engaging with people in your community

  • Creating healthy boundaries

  • Having a social support system

  • Building and maintaining strong relationships with friends

  • Being around people that make you feel safe and secure

  • Feel like you can have trustworthy people

  • Being able to express yourself without the fear of judgement

How can you improve your social relationships?

If for whatever reason, you feel like you lack healthy social relationships, you can improve the quality of your interactions. The first step here is to remember that you can not pour from an empty cup, so working on your fulfilment and happiness is essential. Once you start working on your emotional and mental well-being, you will feel drawn to include people in your life with whom you feel more authentic around. Look for ways you can enrich your existing relationships and build new ones.

To work on your existing relationships, you can start with identifying how you feel when you spend time with certain people. Based on this information, you can decide if you want to invest further in this relationship or are looking for something more. If you’re going to invest more, you can schedule meetups or virtual coffee dates, travel together, plan fun activities and check up on each other. Remember that you might have to put in more effort with some people than others and if you are an expat, having a virtual social support system can work wonders but also try and focus on having a physical one.

To find new social connections, you can join a group that might be focused on a hobby—for example, joining a book club etc. If you are an expat, learning a new skill could bring you closer to people like joining the language school or anything new like taking cooking classes or art workshops. In Denmark, volunteering is an excellent way to meet more locals and practice Danish. It gives you a sense of connection and opportunities to interact and engage with the culture. Another excellent way to socialise is taking part in local events like cleanup drives or flea markets.

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