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Social Support for Wellbeing (Part 3): How to Gain Support to Help You Thrive.

Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, a Chartered Psychologist who specialises in wellbeing and performance psychology and is Director of L&M Consulting Ltd.


Gaining other’s support is not just for difficult times. It is also one of the most important things that you can do to help you develop and thrive. This is because social support can improve your psychological wellbeing by helping you to feel: competent, in control, valued, listened to, supported and part of a community.


But you need to use support well.


In Blog 1, we looked at how you can build your support network and plan to use support more effectively. Here, we look at the types of support that can help you: make the most of yourself, increase the chance of you achieving what you want, and to thrive.


The Golden Rule is Don’t leave gaining good support to chance. The more specific you are in knowing what you need at any particular time, the better you will be at finding the right person to help and the more likely you are to gain the support needed to progress.


To help you thrive, your support network should include people who can help you:


Nurture a Desire to Create or Seize Opportunities to Grow: Often it seems easier to settle where you are, but is doing so best for you in the longer term? Find people who you can share your dreams and aspirations with; people who believe in you and your potential to grow. Ask them to encourage you to take initiative and to challenge or extend yourself to see what a different future might bring or look like. Also, find someone to reinforce that every experience, successful or not, can lead to growth and further opportunities.


See Life’s Opportunities: Sometimes our insecurities lead us to not see opportunities that are there for the taking; opportunities that others see and take. Find people who know your strengths and can help you recognise opportunities that you might otherwise not see, or dismiss as too difficult, threatening or as likely to fail. Specifically, ask people who might know how to find the opportunities you want, however big or small. Here you need to have as many people as possible – the more eyes on the case, the better!


Prepare to Take the Opportunity: Seeing an opportunity is one thing, knowing how to take it and to make the best of it is another. Find people who can encourage and help you to develop achievable goals, plans and strategies, and to recognise or develop your skills. Also, people who can give you the advice you need and help you access needed resources.


Take the First Step: There is no point having the perfect plan, if you can’t take the first step. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect to start, just good enough to get going. Find someone who can give you the support and encouragement you need (but without interfering or becoming too involved). Someone who will: celebrate your accomplishments; encourage you to reflect and learn; help you to fine-tune your thoughts, skills and strategies; and help you stay positive through setbacks.


Remember: We thrive better together. Think, “What support do I need to thrive?” Then ask the people who can help you gain that the most.