Strategic relationship building is not often considered a wellness metric the way that healthy eating, exercise, staying hydrated, meditating and getting ample sleep are. However, studies show that having a strong network and a consistent approach to maintaining your most important relationships contributes favorably to your health and wellbeing. In one study, researchers found that “social network structure is predictive of health and wellness.”
The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine further reports on the networking/wellness connection: “Humans are wired to connect, and this connection affects our health. From psychological theories to recent research, there is significant evidence that social support and feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health. The opposite of connection, social isolation, has a negative effect on health and can increase depressive symptoms as well as mortality.”
In “normal” times, networking and wellness are integrally linked. The connection between our most important networking relationships and our overall wellbeing has become even more pronounced and necessary during a pandemic, when physical isolation is required.
Focus on the quality of your relationships over the quantity of your connections. Schedule regular and recurring time for deliberate networking activities. Be discerning about whom you let into your network and whom you keep in your network. Spend time and energy on positive, constructive and supportive relationships, stepping aside from toxic relationships that do not fuel your overall outlook. By building strong relationships (virtual and in-person) with those who share your wellness passions, you can strengthen your network and strengthen your wellness.
Consider Networking to be a Wellness Metric and Prioritize it as Such
Our wellness journeys ebb and flow. When focusing on wellness, we often prioritize exercising, healthy eating, staying hydrated, meditation and ample sleep. Given the link between strategic relationship building (i.e., networking) and wellness, consider assessing the strength of your most important networking relationships as you work on your overall wellness goals. Avoid making the mistake that so many people make when they say they do not have enough time to network.
Just as you schedule workouts in order to make sure you work them in, and just as you make time to prepare healthy meals, schedule time each week for deliberate networking activities so that you can truly prioritize it and create a wellness habit.
Build Strong Networking Relationships While Working on Wellness-Focused Activities
One of the most effective ways to master the connection between networking and wellness is to engage in wellness-focused relationship building activities with people in your life who prioritize healthy habits. Here are some examples:
- Create a digital or in-person group and arrange to get together once per quarter to engage in a wellness-focused activity. Before or after the activity, build in some networking time when participants can connect.
- If weight loss is a goal, consider the WW (formerly Weight Watchers) virtual workshops that are currently being conducted globally. Whether you attend the current virtual meetings or return to in-person meetings when they resume, building a strong bond and trustful rapport with the same group of people that you see every week, who are all focused on living a healthy lifestyle, enables you to connect networking and wellness.
- The next time you book a vacation (yes, there will be a time when this is possible), book a trip that puts your wellness first. Choose a resort that has a really fantastic gym and offers exercise classes and personal training; choose destinations based on the availability of healthy food; book trips that enable you to engage with others who are focused on wellness.
Putting these best practices into action is an enjoyable, rewarding experience. Sometimes smaller steps lead to the biggest rewards. For example:
- I joined a Facebook Group comprised of alums from my college, Bryn Mawr College, who all focus on fitness. The group is called FitMawrter and it is hugely inspirational.
- I purchased a Peloton spin bike. Not only am I getting intense workouts while at home (which has a strong positive impact on my mental wellness and my physical strength), but joining the global Peloton community has been a great way to network digitally as we all stay safely at home.
- I experienced an amazing social network crossover moment when a group from FitMawrter arranged to take the same Peloton ride together at the same time. What a way to bring networking and wellness together.
Spend time and energy on positive, constructive and supportive relationships and step aside from relationships that do not fuel your overall outlook. By focusing on positive relationships and de-emphasizing toxic relationships, our networking activities strengthen our wellness (just as focusing on healthy foods over unhealthy foods, or favoriting exercise over inactivity).
Relationships play a key role in our lives. Focus on building and maintaining our most important relationships – whether virtually or in-person. The direct connection between health and wellbeing has never been more clear, and the benefits never more important.