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By Jordan Uter
July 10, 2015

For this month’s #MakingHistory series, Generation Progress is highlighting young activists and advocates making history in the area of social wellness, as July is Social Wellness Month. Each week, we’ll feature health professionals who understand the importance of keeping healthy, both physically and socially. This week we spoke with Rachel Curley, a young professional who works in health advocacy at the Center for American Progress.

What does social wellness mean to you? 

Social wellness, to me, describes the value I place on having positive interactions with, supporting, and beRacheling open to those around me.

What kind of social wellness work have you been a part of?

I can’t say that I have been a part of any work that was consciously described as “social wellness,” but I’ve always enjoyed the parts of my various jobs that have allowed me to build relationships with others.

I was a camp counselor for a number of years when I was a teenager and the most important part of my job was building positive and meaningful relationships with my campers. I liked working with the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders because at a time in a kid’s life when one’s identity and self-confidence is easily shaken I wanted to create a supportive and judgement- free space for the campers to feel comfortable being themselves. I thought about how important it was at that time in their lives to help them build positive relationships with themselves and their peers.

To this day, I enjoy mentoring young people (I supervise interns in my current job) and sharing with them what I have learned about the importance of being kind and thoughtful towards others and building a strong network of meaningful connections.

What do you enjoy about social wellness?

I really enjoy spending time with the people I care about- whether it be family or close friends. When doing so I try my best to be really in the moment and appreciative of the time we are sharing. I find my interactions more meaningful and fulfilling when I do this.

What advice would you give to young people looking to strengthen their social wellness?

I would stress to young people that although it may seem vulnerable to rely on others on the surface, it has been my experience that I actually gain more strength from building relationships with and relying on others- whether it’s with family, friends, coworkers, or mentors. People with whom you have strong, meaningful relationships can provide reassurance during times of trial or stress, give you a new perspective during times of frustration, or provide stability during times of transition. It’s important to have a network to lean on as you move forward into adult life. On the more positive side, this network can also just bring joy and comfort on already great days.

Meaningful and fulfilling relationships can be built at any time in your life. I have some great friends that I have had since I was little and others I only met in the last couple of years. Be present when you are speaking with people, ask them about how they are doing, and don’t be afraid to share something personal. You would be surprised how quickly a casual acquaintance or co- worker can evolve into a great friend simply because you were open to it.

Finally, there is no more important relationship than the one you have with yourself. It is natural to struggle with self- confidence, but if you make time to listen to yourself and a point honor your feelings you can increase your self-esteem and personal empowerment. This in turn will increase your capacity to support those around you. Make the time!

Just as you would make the time for creating a stronger relationship with your family and friends you should make the time to keep up to date on our Instagram page! Also if you would like to stay up to date on Rachel’s activities you can follow her on Twitter.

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