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COMMENTARY: Social, mental connection

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- For the last couple of weeks we have been discussing the interconnectedness of the components in the comprehensive airmen fitness model: the connection between the physical, mental, social and spiritual. Last week I talked about the mind/body connection. This week I want to attack the connection between the social and mental components. Social health is inextricably woven with mental health and vice versa. We are designed to be social creatures. Research studies and even your own personal experience can validate the fact that we need to be in interaction with other people. Whether that be in the context of family, friendships, work, marriage or dating we are designed to crave relationship. Very few people want to be alone all the time. Even the most introverted introvert doesn’t want to be alone ALL the time. To not be in relationship with anybody is to not have full mental health. One of the first thing counselors, therapists and mental health specialists will ask a client is what their relationships look like. Do they have friends? Do they go out? Do they have a support system? They ask these questions because they are crucial to overall mental health.

The same way that exercise and diet impact mental health, so does the social life. The idea here is that we must pay attention to our social engagement and our relationships. This is not to say that a single person cannot be mentally healthy, or that a married person is automatically mentally healthy. One does not need to be married or dating to have a healthy social life, or consequently a healthy mind state. But one does need to have some form of meaningful relationship. The challenge this week is to engage in meaningful relationship. If you’re single, go out with some friends. If you’re married, spend some quality time with your spouse and kids. Do not neglect the social aspect of your lives, because to neglect your social health is to neglect your mental health.