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How to Strengthen Social Relationships

It may not come as a surprise that service members need a strong mind and body to meet mission demands. However, social fitness is also a key part of your health and well-being. The quality of your relationships with others can impact multiple areas of your life, from military performance to overall health. Learn why having healthy relationships is important for mission readiness and find tips to help strengthen your current social networks.

The Benefits of Healthy Social Ties

Social fitness involves building and maintaining healthy social connections with others. Having close relationships with family members, friends, coworkers and other service members is important. When you have healthy relationships, you are more likely to feel supported and you are more equipped to focus on your military duties.

Strong friendships are also good for your overall health and may help:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Encourage healthy lifestyle choices
  • Provide support during difficult times
  • Prevent loneliness
  • Reduce your stress

Tips to Improve Social Fitness

Whether deployed or at home, you rely on your social networks to help you cope with the challenges of military life. However, as a service member, it can sometimes be challenging to build or maintain your relationships. Try these tips to help you stay close to your family, friends and fellow service members.

Make Yourself Available. Building close relationships take time. Even with demanding or conflicting schedules, it is important to set aside time for relationships and to connect with others.

Stay Connected. At least once a day, check in with a family member, friend, coworker or fellow service member. Text, call, video chat or use social media to stay in touch if you are separated physically.

Attend Social Activities. Check out your Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program to find fun activities and meet new people. While deployed, try to spend some of your downtime around others – even if it's something as simple as playing a game of catch.

Develop Your Communication Skills. Communicate in a clear, confident, controlled and respectful way. During conversations, practice effective communication strategies like asking questions, showing empathy and actively listening to others.

Build Trust. Strive to be honest and open in your relationships. To help your unit start to build group trust, find ways to have fun together, show vulnerability, and work to define your group's identity.

Show Up for Others. Look out for your friends. If you notice anyone isolating him or herself, reach out to talk and try to draw them into group activities.

What Line Leaders Can Do

Line leaders play a significant role in helping service members develop strong bonds. They can help foster a sense of camaraderie and encourage strong relationships through unit cohesion. Military leaders can also help service members develop individual social fitness by promoting a sense of purpose and a clear understanding and awareness of mission. These tactics are just a few of the ways to build a stronger team.

As a leader, you can also spot problems early and intervene to prevent them from getting worse. If you notice a service member withdrawing from others, reach out and offer them support. Try out these tips for starting a conversation. Isolation may be a sign that someone is experiencing a psychological health concern or potentially dealing with relationship problems. By promoting strong psychological health, line leaders help service members and the unit thrive.

Additional Resources:


  1. Army Resilience Directorate. (n.d.). Social Resources.
  2. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction. (2013, September 23). Chairman's Total Force Fitness Framework.
  3. Coulter, I., Lester, P., and Yarvis, J., Social Fitness, Military Medicine, Volume 175, Issue suppl_8, August 2010, Pages 88–96,[CM[3] 
  4. Human Performance Resources by CHAMP. (2017, Sept. 12). Identifying and Combating Loneliness.
  5. Human Performance Resources by CHAMP. (2018, Sept. 3). Optimize Your "Relationship" Performance.
  6. Mayo Clinic. (2019, April 24). Friendships: Enrich Your Life and Improve Your Health.
  7. Military OneSource. (2019, Dec. 21). Social Wellness.
Last Updated: March 12, 2024
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