Building A Support Network

Generally speaking, we need others around us for support, encouragement, challenge, stimulation, intimacy, and love. In fact, humans are so dependent on social relationships that our health depends on them. There is a lot of research that demonstrates that loneliness increases the risk of depression, suicide, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and altered brain function, and can even knock years off of your life.

When we have a strong social network, we can rely on it for emotional and physical support. Good friends will listen when you have a crisis, cheer you when you succeed, point out when you are being a jerk, and show up to move your couch or cook a meal when you are sick. If you are struggling to build self-acceptance, having friends who accept you as you are, and who you accept as they are, provides a useful template.

If you don’t currently have a strong social network, here’s how to build one:

At work – Take advantage of any formal mentorship or networking groups at your office or ask your boss to connect you with a mentor in your field. If you are in a senior role, offer to be a mentor to a new colleague. Industry associations and conferences are also great places to make connections.

In the community – We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “My drinking team has a (insert sport here) problem.” While the alcohol is optional, we all know that casual sports teams, bowling leagues, and hobby clubs are more about the friendships and socializing than the game, sport or hobby. Find something you like to do or want to learn and join a club. Look for groups on, at your local library, or at nearby community centers.

In your address book – Sometimes, building a network is as simple as cherishing the connections you already have. Haven’t talked to your cousin in a while? Miss your best friend from high school, or your college roommate? Send them a message. Worst-case scenario, you’ve said hi to an old friend. Best case? You re-ignite a connection with someone who knows and cares for you.  

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