Have you ever heard of social support theory? If not, you may be in for a surprise.

According to experts, having a strong social support system can help fight loneliness and depression, decrease the chances of developing a substance abuse issue like alcoholism, and reduce the likelihood of committing a crime. It may also improve cardiovascular health and prevent tragedies like suicide.

But how do you develop your network? And, how can you tell if your support system is working?

You’ve got questions, and we have answers. Read on for a complete guide on building and maintaining social support in your life, starting today!

The Basics of Social Support Theory

According to the theories of social support, humans require a group of loved ones around them to truly succeed. This can include friends, family members, colleagues, and even paid professionals.

The right support group will offer a wide variety of assistance, with different individuals taking on essential roles.

Emotional Support

The people in your life who provide emotional support will back you up when you need it, offer a shoulder to cry on when times get tough, and hear you out when you need to talk.

This type of support is especially important to people living with depression or struggling with feelings of isolation. And, it’s most often found in friends, parents, and romantic partners.

Instrumental Support

Unlike emotional support, instrumental support focuses more on physical needs. This includes supportive acts like bringing you a hot meal when you’re too tired to cook, offering you a ride if you need help making it to an appointment, or helping you complete tasks that improve your quality of life.

Your extended family network and friends are often helpful here, as are peers and mentors.

Informational Support

Do you need help making good decisions?  Informational support is all about gaining guidance, good advice, correct information, and mentoring. This can be essential when making big decisions or life changes. And, it’s best sought from a professional source, like a counselor, psychologist, or social worker.

If you’re on the wrong path, informational support may feel like a confrontation. But, it’s essential to consider that a truly supportive person in your life will be honest and direct if they see you heading in the wrong direction.

Healthy Choices and Behaviors

Being part of a social group can influence behaviors, including your diet and exercise routine, substance use, and whether or not you are a law-abiding citizen. So, the wrong social support can be harmful, especially if you struggle with maintaining healthy habits.

When choosing the individuals in your social and support groups, watch out for negative influences, peer pressure, and unhealthy choices that might rub off on you. Instead, seek out healthy, happy, and balanced individuals that lift you up and help you feel good about yourself!

Rely on Healthy Support Systems

Social support theory isn’t only for people with problems. In fact, even the healthiest and most balanced among us require a network of loved ones to stay happy.

Before you start building your own personal safety net, take an honest look at the people around you and decide who is adding to your quality of life, and who might be detracting from it. Then, take this article’s advice to heart and start making changes that support a positive outlook for you!

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By Manali