The Importance of Building a Support System and Five Steps to Get Started by Erin Boehme, M.A., LPC Intern
What is so important about a support system?
One of the things I assess for when clients come in for therapy is the strength of their social support systems. This helps me understand if the client has people to rely on during hard times or if they face life’s battles alone. It also helps me know who can be relied on for active support of the client outside of therapy. These people can include a spouse, family members, or friends.
A strong social support system has been proven to be a strong influence on mental health. A more than 80 year study by Harvard found that people who embrace community live longer happier lives. Having a group that understands what you are going through decreases feelings of loneliness and symptoms of anxiety and depression during difficult life events. A support system is where we create our perception of belonging and purpose. A sense of belonging brings peace of mind. When a person has planned activities with others to look forward to, hopefulness for the future increases. A study about online support groups by Zigron and Bronstein states that the benefits of having even a weak network of support for your health condition provides emotional support, reduces stigma, and creates a sense of belonging.
5 Steps to start building your support system:
1. Make a list of all your interests and hobbies.
Include spiritual beliefs, physical, mental, occupational, creative/artistic and educational interests. Include morals and beliefs you are passionate about. You might be surprised at how large this list could be! That is great because it expands your options.
2. Now that you have your list… it is time to start a new one. On this next list brainstorm as many places and ways you can participate in these interests and hobbies.
3. Okay. Here comes the hard part…. Make a plan to go do some of these activities and follow through with that plan. I know it can be hard sometimes but you will be a better person for it! While you are at it, say hello to some of the people you meet who share similar interests. These encounters could create lifelong friendships.
4. Active participation has been proven to be empowering! To reap the most out of any community of support and to increase your likelihood of positive experiences, you should consider ways to get involved. This increases a person’s sense of purpose which decreases feelings of loneliness and depression.
5. Have you ever felt like an outsider or foreigner? It is not a good feeling. If you already have an established friend group or community find ways to grow your support group by inviting others to participate. You’ll reap the extra benefit of doing something life changing for someone else.
* Just because you have trouble finding the right support group does not mean it is not out there! You can search for specific support groups online. This will widen your access to groups of people who have similar interests or support needs. Support groups for specific medical and mental health diagnosis are also available online. Have you found that group that you fit into? Each one of us longs for a sense of belonging and when we do not have it we struggle with feelings of loneliness and instability. I encourage you to find your tribe, your crew, your team and reap the benefits of having a caring and supportive community around you.
Kingwood Psychotherapy &