Social Relationships

“Human connection is both the purpose and the result of a meaningful life.” – Melinda Gates

What Are Social Relationships?

People are social beings. We desire to be close to others, to connect and to form strong and enduring bonds. These can be with our friends, family, neighbours, partners, colleagues, team mates – anyone, really. As we get older, maintaining social connections becomes more difficult and takes more effort. We get busy, life gets in the way and before we know it we’ve fallen out of touch with people.

Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies we can use on a daily basis to help us identify the areas where our relationships are struggling and take positive action towards strengthening them as well as forming new ones.

Improving our relationships is important as having positive social relationships is one of the most consistent factors in living a happy life. Connecting with others is essential to our mental wellbeing and has even been linked to various physical health benefits.

It is also important to note that everyone differs in terms of their sociability. Many people choose not to interact with others and are comfortable with their choice. For others, a lack of social connection may be due to personal difficulties such as depression, anxiety or trauma; or behaviours that are causing problems with communication e.g. shyness.

This module will guide you through various strategies designed to help you improve your social connections. Alongside explanations, you will be given practical tools you can use to foster positive social relationships, combat loneliness and live a happier life.

Understanding Your MyMynd Social Relationship Score

Optimal

An optimal score suggests that you are very socially connected and able to fit in with a group. You are likely to seek out opportunities to meet new people and experience no significant distress in doing so. You may want to explore this module in order to maintain good functioning.  

Satisfactory

A satisfactory score suggests that you are fairly socially connected and able to fit in. You may experience some mild distress in group situations or when meeting new people but are mostly able to overcome this. You are not necessarily excelling in your social life but are functioning well enough. You may want to explore this module to work on those aspects where you are struggling.

Moderate Concern

A moderate concern score suggests that you have some social connections but tend to experience distress in group situations or when meeting new people. You may experience feelings of exclusion and/or being ignored by others. We recommend exploring this module in order to work on those aspects where you are struggling.

At Risk

An at risk score suggests that you have very few social connections and that you experience frequent and significant distress in group situations and when meeting new people. You constantly feel as if you are being excluded and that you don’t fit in. We recommend exploring this module in order to work on those aspects where you are struggling and to seek help from your GP/listed helplines if needed.

It is important that you understand for yourself whether or not you are happy with your social life. For this reason it is important that you look at your overall report. If social relationships is the only indicator in the at risk range, you might not experience significant distress. However, if there are other indicators that are flagged as at risk, your perceived lack of social connectedness could be contributing to any distress.

Why Working On Your Social Relationships Is Important

Positive social relationships have been linked to:

Reduced Stress

Healthier Lifestyle

Longer Life

Greater Sense Of Purpose

Increased Ability To Adapt

What To Do When You Are Feeling Socially Excluded

If your MyMynd assessment score for the social relationships indicator was in the moderate concern or at risk range, this suggests that you frequently perceive yourself to be isolated, excluded or ignored. If this is the case, you might want to read more about these feelings and how to tackle them below. 

Many of us can recall occasions where we have felt left out; like we have deliberately been excluded or not invited to something. For example, work colleagues going to lunch without us, or two friends mentioning another friend’s birthday party knowing that we have not received an invitation. Feeling left out can hurt and it makes us question the reasons why someone else would make us feel this way:

  • Are we not good company?
  • Have we said or done something wrong?
  • Do they not want to be our friend?

Over time you may find yourself dwelling on these questions, leaving you feeling sad, angry and/or confused. 

Fortunately, there are various strategies that you can use to help you become aware of these feelings and practice a more balanced perspective, enabling you to reduce the emotional impact of feeling left out:

Accept Your Emotions

It is perfectly normal to be upset when you feel excluded. Regardless of whether or not the exclusion was intentional, you might feel a mix of emotions including sadness, hurt, anger and annoyance. It is good to acknowledge these feelings in order to fully understand and process them.

Tip: take some time to ‘listen’ in and feel your emotions. Maybe you can label what you feel? Now tell yourself  that it is okay for you to feel this way. 

Consider If The Exclusion Could Have Been Unintentional

It is important to realise that social exclusion can be unintentional. Feeling excluded and actually being intentionally excluded are two different things and sometimes others genuinely do not realise that their actions have made you feel left out. It is always helpful to communicate your feelings to others and clarify what led to the specific situation.

Tip: if faced with exclusion, you could try and tell the person how it made you feel. Next, ask for the reasons why they behaved the way they did. Often you will find that there are simple explanations for other people’s behaviours.

Avoid Jumping To Conclusions

It is common to immediately assume the worst-case scenario when feeling socially excluded. You may catastrophise and come up with thoughts such as: ‘my friends no longer care about me’; ‘I am not likable’; ‘no one wants to hang out with me’. This thought-pattern can prevent you from thinking about more reasonable explanations for why others might have treated you a certain way. Instead of jumping to such conclusions straight-away, take some time to consider the evidence you have to assume such things. 

Tip: write down the catastrophising thoughts you might experience after being excluded from something. Next to them try and write down any actual evidence you have to support these thoughts. Example: ‘I am not likeable’. You will most likely find that there is very little evidence that no one likes you. Example: ‘Actually, I am funny. My friend recently told me that I am a good listener’.

Explore Your Signals

It is always good to explore whether your actions might play a role in why your social life does not go as planned. If you want others to include you in activities, ask yourself whether you clearly convey your desire to join. You can communicate this verbally but remember your facial expressions, body language and behaviours also play an important role.

Tip: first, it can be helpful to learn more about your non-verbal communication skills and practice them. Sometimes it is also worth just asking people why they did not invite you. Alternatively, the next time you hear about a lunch at work, or an event you want to go to, try asking whether you can join. Whilst this might seem scary at first, it often helps to resolve these situations quickly. 

Get To Know New People

It is also possible that your existing relationships just don’t provide the support and connectedness you need. People change over time and so do their interests, views and values. You might find that you have less in common with someone than you used to or that one or both of you simply lack the time to invest into your friendship. Whilst this can be difficult to accept, consider forming new friendships. 

Tip: think about whether your relationship makes you a) feel good about yourself, b) feel supported, and c) feel safe. If you reply with no to all of these, it might be worth talking to someone else about this particular relationship. You can also explore ways in which you could form new relationships by clicking on the link below. 

What Is ‘Healthy’?

A healthy relationship does not mean that it comes without arguments and challenges. After all, we are all individuals with our own distinct personalities and stories. However, here are a few signs that your relationship with someone is of a healthy nature:

You feel connected

You respect and trust each other 

You share experiences, values, and views 

You can talk to them no matter what 

You provide mutual support and benefit 

You are happy when you are around them 

You feel safe when you are with them

Unhealthy relationships are often tricky to spot. Sometimes it is helpful to talk to someone else about your relationship. If your relationship with someone makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or bad about yourself, tell someone that you trust or talk to your GP.

How Can You Improve Your Social Relationships?

Improving your relationships with others

Many adults find it hard to form new friendships or to keep up with existing friends. Socialising is not always among our first priorities, as our days are often filled with other things such as going to work, caring for children or other family members, exercising, completing housework and so on. Often we find ourselves growing apart from existing friends and struggle to find ways to meet new people. 

The first step towards improving your social relationships involves becoming aware of the areas of your life where you are struggling to make or maintain connections and the possible reasons why this is the case. From there, you can begin to challenge your perspective and change your behaviours accordingly. 

Improving your relationship with yourself

Having a positive relationship with ourselves helps us build on traits that will inevitably help us in our relationships with others. It also enables us to thrive in our own company rather than merely surviving in it. This is important because we all spend time alone – even the most sociable people are not surrounded by friends 24/7.

The relationship you have with yourself is one of the most important relationships, and certainly the longest relationship, you will ever have. It is also the one that a lot of people struggle to embrace. A good starting point for nurturing this relationship is to regularly practice self-compassion and self-care. This will improve your resilience and self-esteem, making it easier for you to cope with being alone.

Social Relationships In The Times Of COVID-19

In the current times of working from home and social distancing, the need to find alternative ways to build and maintain relationships has become increasingly apparent.

If this affects you at the moment, please know that you are not alone. Many people are struggling with the lack of physical contact and social isolation that has been brought on by the ongoing pandemic. Enforced lockdowns and restricted movement within the UK have made it hard to maintain face-to-face contact with friends and family and harder still to meet new people.

While this can be tough, there are ways to build connections ‘online’. A temporary solution for many has been to stay in touch virtually, through the use of social media and communication platforms such as Zoom, and to establish new connections through safe online communities.

Below are some suggestions of virtual activities you can get involved in to help combat feelings of loneliness and take back some control of your social life.

You can also look at this self-help guide.

Virtual Activity Ideas
  • Join a Facebook group for your local area

Social media is perhaps one of the quickest ways to connect with new people. Conducting a simple Facebook search using the key words for the type of group you are looking to join will reveal whether or not a group already exists in your area. If it doesn’t, why not start one?

  • Start a blog

Is there a particular topic or phenomenon that fascinates you or that you want to explore in more depth? Why not start a blog about it? Blogging is a great way to share your existing knowledge on a subject and to learn more about it by connecting with a community of like-minded individuals. Find out more.

  • Sign up for a virtual exercise class

Whether you really miss going to the gym or are simply looking for an alternative to your allocated 30 minute walk around the block, taking part in a virtual exercise class is a great way to keep your activity levels up during lockdown and gives you the opportunity to work out as part of a team.

Free NHS Exercise Videos

Better At Home

Gym Box

  • Attend a livestream concert for a band you like 

Music has a way of connecting people in a way that nothing else does. If you miss the atmosphere and sense of togetherness that comes from watching your favourite artist perform live, why not get dressed up and attend a livestream concert with your support bubble, or virtually with some friends?

Amelia Chamber Music

  • Apply to be in the virtual audience for a live tv show

Numerous television shows have taken to filming with a virtual audience since the admission of live studio audiences has been prevented due to social distancing rules. Why not apply online and be a part of your favourite show?

BBC Shows

Applause Store

  • Set up a weekly Zoom quiz with your friends/family

Zoom has rapidly become the nation’s most used communication platform. Why not use it to set up a weekly quiz with your friends and family?

  • Attend an online lecture on a topic that interests you

Most U.K universities offer free one-off lectures on specialist topics. Why not connect with your alumni association and learn something new in your spare time?

Tools For Improving Your Relationships With Others

Think About The ‘Why Not’

A way to identify occasions where you have avoided or ignored social interaction and reflect on your reasons.

Create New Social Goals

An extension of the “why not” tool designed for setting goals related to making or maintaining social connections.

Daily Do Goods

Actions that you perform during the day, all in the spirit of doing something nice for someone else.

Social Projects

A list of things you can try in order to meet new people and form new relationships.

Tools For Improving Your Relationship With Yourself

About Me

A simple way of realising all the things you actually like about yourself and that you are proud of.

Positive Affirmations

Positive statements that help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts.

Self-Care Assessment

A rating-based tool that allows you to learn about your self-care needs and to implement change. 

Daily Self-Care

A list that helps you to incorporate daily self-care activities into your routine. 

Think About The ‘Why Not’

R

Awareness

20 Minutes

Starter

l

Written

There are numerous opportunities to connect with others throughout the day. However, we often tend to ignore or avoid these for a variety of reasons, such as: 

  • ‘I had no time’.
  • ‘I am afraid of being rejected’.
  • ‘That person doesn’t seem nice’.
  • ‘He won’t want to talk to me anyway’.

It is helpful to take some time to reflect on these reasons, as it can help you identify your thoughts and concerns. 

Using the worksheet in the Download Materials, take some time (5 mins) to answer the questions about yourself. Then try to reflect on each of your answers (15 mins). Can you identify a certain thought pattern that prevents you from building more relationships? Step by step you can then begin to work on your thoughts and concerns.

Create New Social Goals

R

Challenging Perspective

25 Minutes

Intermediate

l

Written

Using your answers from the  ‘Why Not’ worksheet, list at least three measurable goals with respect to making or maintaining social connections. Remember that goals need to be both reasonable and attainable. 

Examples of goals could be:

  • To form an ongoing relationship with a new friend (one who you have yet to meet)
  • To learn 5 new things about 3 friends that you know
  • To have lunch with at least one new person 

During this process, refer back to the answers you provided in the ‘Why Not’ worksheet.

Awareness is often the first step towards overcoming your concerns over building new relationships. If you find yourself struggling to reach any of your goals, try challenging your perspective by asking yourself “what is the worst that can happen by at least saying hello?”.

Daily Do Goods

R

Changing Behaviour

5 Minutes a Day

Starter

Activity

As the saying goes, “if you want to feel good, do good”. 

Daily do-goods are actions that you perform throughout the day, all in the spirit of doing something for someone else. The action itself can be as simple as completing some housework that is usually done by your partner or, it can be something more time-consuming such as tutoring a colleague for an upcoming assessment. Whatever you decide to do, it is important that you are putting the needs of someone else ahead of yourself. 

For some examples of daily do-goods see the Do-Good Checklist in the Download Materials.

Once you have completed all of the activities on the checklist you can start adding your own or look at the list of ”Additional Do-Goods’ we created.  

 

 

Social Projects

R

Changing Behaviour

Once a Month

Intermediate

Activity

Social projects are a great way to meet new people and expand your social connections. Our suggestions are mainly for activities that require you to join in person however, we have also compiled a list of things you can do virtually.

We recommend that you set aside at least one day per month to take part in a social project but of course you can participate more often if you would like. 

  • Volunteering: offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community centre, charity shop or other organisation. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests. Helpful Platforms are: DoIt, nextdoor and London volunteering
  • Extend and accept invitations: invite a colleague to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a social gathering, say yes! Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favour.
  • Take up a new hobby: take a college or community education course to meet like-minded people who have similar interests to you or join a class at a local gym, senior centre or community facility.
  • Spend quality time with friends and family: host a games night, attend a concert, go and support your favourite sports team, spend the day at the beach or go for a family walk. Whatever the activity, dedicate at least 1 day a month to spending quality time with people you love.
  • Join a community: this could be any community such as a youth club, sports team, faith community or activist group. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
  • Connect with your alumni association: if you are a recent graduate you should have access to your university’s alumni network which often includes access to free workshops and webinars on a range of topics. Why not connect and sign up to an event?
  • Attend cultural events: this could involve going to the theatre, visiting an art gallery or attending a lecture on a subject of your interest.

During COVID you might want to checkout these virtual activity ideas. 

About Me

R

Self-Compassion

15 Minutes a Week

Starter

l

Written

This is a simple way of realising all the things you actually like about yourself and that you are proud of. It can be difficult to talk positively about yourself or give yourself the credit you deserve. However, this is an important part of being self-compassionate.

  1. Print off the worksheet in the Download Materials and complete the sentences.
  2. While it might feel silly at first, try to think hard and write down everything that comes to your mind.
  3. Store the sheet somewhere you can easily access it, for example in your handbag or bedside table.
  4. The next time you feel bad about yourself revisit your answers. 

Positive Affirmations

R

Self-Compassion

5 Minutes a Day

Starter

Thinking

Affirmations are positive statements that help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, you encourage your brain to adopt a more positive outlook on your life and your capabilities. 

Over time, the positive changes to your thoughts will also be reflected in your behaviour.

There is no right or wrong way to practice your affirmations but some suggestions include:

  1. Writing the affirmation downWrite the affirmation in a journal, diary, or on your computer and add to it each morning until you have a comprehensive list of positive statements ready for whenever you need a little boost.
  2. Saying the affirmation out loudWhen you wake up in the morning look at your reflection in the mirror and recite the affirmation out loud to yourself three times to solidify it in your mind.
  3. Downloading an affirmation appDownload a free affirmation app and get daily affirmations sent straight to your phone.

Note: what you choose to write in your affirmations is entirely up to you. Statements can range from something specific to do with your ability to perform in your job to something more general about your life. The important thing is that each affirmation is a positive statement created by you about you. 

The flashcards in the Download Materials contain some examples to help you get started.

Self-Care Assessment

R

Self-Compassion

30 Minutes

Intermediate

l

Written

This tool is a good start for you to think about how often you take time for yourself. How frequently, and how well, do you perform activities that make you feel good? This could be anything from going for a walk each morning before work, to practicing meditation before bed, to making sure you eat a healthy breakfast everyday. 

The goal is to learn about your self-care needs by identifying the areas of your life where your needs are being met as well as the areas that could use some more work. You can then improve your ‘self-care routine’. 

Use the link provided in the ‘Download Materials‘. 

1. Think about the different areas of your life and rate (from 1 to 3) how well you are currently taking care of each one:

(1 = poorly)

(3 = well)

2. Take note of any aspects you would like to improve.

3. Once you have identified all of your areas for improvement, choose one from each domain to work on in the next month and write down a pledge for how you will do so.

For example, if you decide that you want to exercise more frequently, your pledge might say “In the next month I will dedicate 20 minutes everyday to going on a walk”.

4. At the end of the month, review your progress and choose a new self-care activity to work on.

Clicking here will redirect you to TherapistAid.com where you can download and print off a free self-care assessment worksheet they created to help get you started.

Daily Self-Care

R

Self-Compassion

15 Minutes a Day

Starter

l

Written

This tool can be performed on its own or as an extension of the self-care assessment and can help ensure that you are practicing self-care in all areas of your life, not just the ones that you find easiest.

The checklist in the Download Materials is a good starting point for incorporating daily self-care activities into your routine. Once you have completed these, feel free to add in some ideas of your own.

You can use the provided worksheet in two ways: 

A) Self-Care List: Work your way through the lists, completing one self-care activity per day and ticking them off as you go.

Note: try and alternate between areas, especially focusing on those that you most struggle with. 

B) Self-Care Jar: Print the worksheet, take some scissors and cut out all the self-care activities. Put them in a jar and pull one out each morning. Aim to complete that self-care activity that day.

The self-care jar involves a random draw of activities each day, making sure that you complete activities from different areas, including those that you may struggle with.

Note: you could write down your own activities and add them to that jar.