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Ah, relationships! We love them. We hate them.  We are challenged by them. So why do we need them to be well socially? 

Social well-being is defined as the ability to interact in a healthy way with those around us. This involves having supportive friends and family, the ability to develop deep connections, and communicate in healthy ways. Social well-being is one of the 8 dimensions of wellness.

This might surprise you; but, social well-being has nothing to do with whether we are extroverted, introverted, or fall somewhere in between. We ALL need healthy interactions in order to live our best lives. In fact, people who have healthy relationships and a strong social network tend to respond better to stress and even tend to live longer. Surrounding ourselves with healthy relationships leads to a stronger immune system, happier endocrine system, and a healthier heart!  


Postcard Text

Postcard 1:

Dear Immune System,

Thank you for protecting our bodies from germs, harmful substances, and things that can make us ill.

We really appreciate being well!

Sincerely, BH WELL


Postcard 2:

Dear Endocrine System,

Thank you for helping control our moods, our growth, and our development. Also, thank you for helping our other organs work properly, managing our metabolism, and helping with reproduction. Feeling good feels good!

Sincerely, BH WELL


Postcard 3:

Dear Cardiovascular System,

Thank you for moving oxygen around my body and for removing carbon dioxide (which the trees need and I don’t). Thank you for taking nutrients to every cell in my body (literally) and for helping remove waste products. As if that isn’t enough, thank you for helping fight disease and infection. I really enjoy breathing and staying healthy!

Sincerely, BH WELL

Clearly, social well-being is an important dimension of health. Similar to how you have to put energy and work into staying physically or mentally fit, social well-being requires a bit of intentional work as well.

It requires developing deep connections, having supportive friends and family, and the ability to communicate in healthy ways. When these three components are in place, healthy relationships flourish. Healthy relationships exist when there is honesty, mutual respect and problem solving, individuality with room for self-confidence, and good communication with the ability to control anger and fight fair (avoid insults and take breaks if the discussion gets heated).  

Unfortunately, not all relationships are healthy. Now, we are not talking about a few growing pains here and there as toddlers, teens, and even young adults seek their independence.  We are talking about sustained unhealthy behavior in relationships over time because these relationships impact health (the heart, endocrine system, and immune system to name a few) negatively. So what does an unhealthy relationship look like? If there is control, hostility, dishonesty, disrespect, intimidation, or any type of emotional, physical or sexual violence in a relationship, it is not healthy. Unhealthy relationships can include a partner trying to isolate you from your social support system (family, friends, counselors, etc.). Further, isolation is associated with health risks similar to tobacco use, high blood pressure, and obesity. Unhealthy relationships negatively impact your social well-being. 


Postcard Text

Postcard 1:

Dear Isolation,

I know the truth.

You are bad for me. You are associated with increased heart disease (29% increase!) and increased risk of stroke (32% increase!). You also hang out with depression, anxiety, and suicide.

I deserve better and I am leaving you in the dust!

Sincerely, BH WELL


Postcard 2:

Dear Unhealthy Relationships,

You do not have my best interests in mind. You are selfish. You cast nets of anxiety and depression. You try to make me feel unseen, unheard, and unworthy. You leave me emotionally exhausted! You want me to have low self-esteem so that I will look to you to teach me, guide me, tell me how to act and what to do with my time. You slowly try to suppress ME: my passions, my dreams, and things I enjoy. Worse than that, you slowly make me think the only right choice is for me to follow your dreams, thoughts, and preferences.

I am worthy of a healthy relationship. I enjoy relaxing, dreaming, and reaching to be the best ME I can be. So, consider this your official break-up letter. I wish you lots of growth and learning in your own space. I am moving on toward peace, self-care, and unconditional love.

Sincerely, BH WELL

Here are some ways to strengthen healthy relationships and draw boundaries with unhealthy relationships:

  • Focus on being your best you! Whether through counseling, honest conversations with those you trust, or simply self-care, there are many ways to continually grow as a person.
  • Be purposeful with your trusted social network. Reach out to them regularly. Whether it is a phone call, short walk or quick meal, spending time connecting is what matters.
  • If you find yourself isolated, decide to get up and go! Walk your dog (or your pretend dog). Volunteer. Find something that interests you and take a class or join a group (hiking, fishing, painting, book club, etc.).
  • If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship, talk to those you trust (family, long-time friends, a pastor or counselor). Draw healthy boundaries and leave if necessary.

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, there is help! Call 1-800-799-7233 or text START to 88788. This is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It operates 24 hours, 7 days a week. 



Curious about the other seven dimensions of wellness? 

8 Dimensions of Wellness video 

The Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) research team exists to promote behavioral health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. To learn more about BH WELL, visit our website. Interested in more evidence-based, free mental and behavioral health resources? Follow us @ukbhwell on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.




Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships. (Accessed November 15, 2022.)

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Social Isolation and Loneliness in Older Adults: Opportunities for the Health Care System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.