Everyone needs support. During good times, your support system will celebrate with you, and during hard times, they will help you get through them. As the member of a support system, you’ll also share the trials and tribulations of others in your group. It’s important to establish a support group for yourself as you navigate the ups and down of life. Read on to find out why support systems are important and how you can create your own.
Benefits of Support Systems
No matter what you are going through in your life at the moment, having a good support group around you can help. Here are three ways that a circle of supportive friends and family members can help you.
1. Support Systems Keep You From Being Isolated
Not only can isolation lead to loneliness, but to depression and anxiety as well. If you have no one to share the good and bad things that are happening in your life, you could become depressed and frustrated. Humans are social creatures and need that outlet. Even the most introverted people need to have some contact with people, whether that’s their family, their coworkers, their friends, or people they meet through community organizations. If you find that you are feeling isolated and alone, getting involved in some type of support group or another social system can significantly improve your mood.
2. Support Systems Can Reduce Stress
Going through the stresses of daily life is trying, and these frustrations can seem much worse when you don’t have someone else’s perspective to help you see them in a new light. In addition, when you are in the midst of chaos or a negative situation, your support system might pick up on your signs of stress even before you do. For example, you might not even realize that you’re breathing shallowly or clenching your fists, but once a friend points it out, you can take steps to reduce your stress levels.
3. Support Systems Can Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life
Studies show that having a good support group can help you not only live longer but also enjoy better overall health. In fact, studies have shown that social activity might be just as important for good health as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and abstaining from smoking cigarettes. People of all ages and of both sexes achieve better health and live longer when they have friends and loved ones to depend on and to lend support to.
Creating Your Own Support Group
Now that you understand how important having a support group is, you might wonder how you can create one for yourself. If you already have a large network of friends and family members, creating a circle of support might not seem like a large undertaking. If, however, you don’t have many friends or any friends at all, you might not know where to begin. Here are five tips for creating a support group when you are starting without close friends in your life already.
1. Be More Active in Your Community
If you are sitting home and not going anywhere or talking to anyone, you are going to have a very hard time drumming up supportive friends. You must make the effort to get out and about in your community. While you might run into people who can become friends just by frequenting the same places each week, it’s more likely that you will find people with whom you have things in common if you volunteer, join a civic group, or make a concerted effort to find an activity with like-minded participants.
2. Be Willing to Ask for and Offer Help
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, and it’s equally hard for others to know that you need help. If you are feeling alone and that no one cares, you might need to reach out and ask for what you need. You will likely find that many in the community are willing to lend you support if they know what your needs are. The other side of this is that you could look for ways to help others. If someone in your circle is struggling, reach out and offer to help them. This helps build the type of trusting relationship you need in your circle of support.
3. Consider Online Support
If you don’t have a place to go to meet friends in your local area, online support groups might be just as effective for getting you the social interaction and support that you need. This is a great option for someone who is homebound or who has social anxiety and is unable or unwilling to go to in-person meetings in the community. With online support groups widely available on Facebook, in web forums, and in other places on the Internet, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to find what you need.
4. Know When a Particular Person or Group Is Not a Good Match for You
While the point of creating a circle of support is to have people to reach out to, it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to be a good fit for what you’re looking for. Don’t focus on the need for friends; instead, focus on the need to find people with whom you can be yourself and give and receive support as needed. If it seems as though someone is not a good fit for you, politely bow out of the relationship. The last thing you need is more stress caused by someone you were hoping to include in your support group!
5. Find a Local Support Group
There are many ready-made support groups that you could join in order to meet people, gain support and make friends. Talk to your mental health counselor about whether there’s a group in your area that might be a good fit. You could also inquire at your local houses of worship or your local hospital. Somewhere in your community or online, you will be able to find the people that will become friends if you put yourself out there and look for them.