What Is a Wellness Group, and Do You Need One?

In the not-so-distant past, men were expected to be strong enough to overcome any mental health issue or weakness alone, or at least cover it up, and not complain about it. There was (and sometimes still is) a stigma when it comes to men and emotional support. As a result, many men experienced mental health disorders like depression, thought disturbances, and behavioral issues without any outlet for reprieve. In the modern age, opinions are slowly changing, and support channels are becoming far more available to men. Aside from wellness intensive outpatient programs, primary care physicians, and inpatient treatment, men’s wellness groups are growing to meet the needs of men and provide the support they desperately need. Let’s dig into wellness groups, expose the benefits, and learn how to implement this unique team-based approach into our self-care program.

In the not-so-distant past, men were expected to be strong enough to overcome any mental health issue or weakness alone, or at least cover it up, and not complain about it. There was (and sometimes still is) a stigma when it comes to men and emotional support. As a result, many men experienced mental health disorders like depression, thought disturbances, and behavioral issues without any outlet for reprieve.

In the modern age, opinions are slowly changing, and support channels are becoming far more available to men. Aside from wellness intensive outpatient programs, primary care physicians, and inpatient treatment, men’s wellness groups are growing to meet the needs of men and provide the support they desperately need.

Let’s dig into wellness groups, expose the benefits, and learn how to implement this unique team-based approach into our self-care program.

What Is a Wellness Group?

A wellness group is any organized activity designed to improve and support health and fitness. Wellness programs could include physical fitness programs, mental and emotional support, or targeted support for a specific topic like eating difficulties, cancer care, or relationship concerns.

The beauty of a wellness group is that it can be easily adapted for any interest and need. It can be a workout group, a hunting and fishing group, or even a group of coworkers that meet to discuss workplace environment health.

Benefits of a Wellness Group

Participating in a wellness group can offer numerous benefits for individuals seeking to improve their overall well-being. Social isolation is a trigger for many mental health disorders, and even general everyday stress is easier to bear when you’ve got friends to share the load.

1. Emotional Support

Men’s wellness groups provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment where men can feel comfortable discussing personal issues and challenges they may not feel comfortable sharing in other settings.

Men often face societal pressure to suppress emotions and appear strong, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Wellness groups offer a space where men can express their emotions openly and receive support from others who may be facing similar struggles.

2. Validation and Understanding

Being part of a group of men who share similar experiences and challenges can provide a sense of validation and understanding. Knowing that others are going through similar struggles can help reduce feelings of shame and stigma.

3. Learning and Growth

Wellness groups provide opportunities for learning and personal growth. Members gain insights from each other and share strategies for coping with stress, managing emotions, improving relationships, and adopting healthier lifestyles.

4. Accountability

Being part of a group provides accountability for individuals striving to make positive changes in their lives, whether it’s committing to regular exercise, improving nutrition, or prioritizing self-care. When someone else is checking in on you, asking about your progress, or even engaging in a little healthy competition, you’re more likely to stick to your goals.

5. Reduced Isolation

Men’s wellness groups offer a sense of belonging and connection, which can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness that are common among men, especially in today’s fast-paced and digitally-focused society.

6. Enhanced Social Skills

Engaging in discussions and activities within a wellness group can help improve social skills such as communication, empathy, and conflict resolution, which can benefit relationships both within and outside of the group.

9. Sense of Purpose

Being part of a community focused on wellness can give individuals a sense of purpose and belonging, as well as opportunities to contribute to the well-being of others.

How Does a Wellness Group Function?

A wellness group typically functions as a supportive community where people can come together to discuss various aspects of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Some groups are highly organized and formal. Others are very laid-back. Aside from group discussions, many wellness groups opt for fun activities, expert guest speakers, and resource sharing. Here are a few key components for a successful group:

1. Meetings/Events

The group may hold regular meetings, either in person or virtually, where members gather to discuss topics related to men’s health and wellness. These meetings could be structured around specific themes or open-ended discussions.

2. Facilitators/Leadership

There need to be designated facilitators, health professionals, or leaders within the group who help guide discussions, ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate, and maintain a supportive and respectful atmosphere. In an outpatient program, there will be a treatment team that does this part.

In less formal groups, depending on the topic at hand, you may not need to be a trained medical professional to be the group facilitator. If you have experience with the topic, and the will to help, in most cases you can find the training or resources you need. We’ll talk about good places to secure resources later in the article.

3. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is typically a crucial aspect of men’s wellness groups. Members should feel safe sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences knowing that what is said within the group stays within the group.

4. Topics of Discussion

Discussions may cover a wide range of topics including physical health (exercise, nutrition, sexual health), mental health (stress management, coping strategies, dealing with emotions, or dealing with a traumatic event), relationships (communication, intimacy), addiction, personal development, and more.

While some groups are treatment-specific, others will cover a variety over the course of the group. Sometimes, conversation will flow naturally. However, if you’re the facilitator, it’s good to have a couple of prompts on hand for nights when the group needs a bit of a nudge.

5. Support and Encouragement

Members offer support, encouragement, and validation to one another. This can be particularly important for men who may not feel comfortable expressing vulnerability in other settings.

6. Resource Sharing

Members may share resources such as books, articles, podcasts, or local services that they’ve found helpful in their own wellness journey.

7. Guest Speakers/Experts

Occasionally, the group may invite guest speakers or experts in various areas of men’s health and wellness to provide information, guidance, and answer questions.

8. Activities

There are many great group activities that men’s wellness groups can engage in to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are a few to consider for your group.

  • Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, or playing team sports not only provide opportunities for exercise but also foster camaraderie and connection among group members.
  • Engaging in group workouts and exercising together can also be beneficial. Whether it’s participating in a fitness class, going for a group run, or doing strength training workouts together, exercising as a group not only promotes physical fitness but also boosts motivation and accountability. Group workouts can be tailored to accommodate different fitness levels and preferences, ensuring that everyone feels included and challenged. Yoga and meditation sessions offer a chance to cultivate mindfulness, reduce stress, and improve flexibility and balance.
  • Online cooking classes or nutrition workshops can educate participants about healthy eating habits and empower them to make nutritious choices for themselves and their families.
  • Workshops focused on topics like communication skills, stress management, or personal development can provide valuable insights and support for navigating life’s challenges.
  • Axe-throwing, smash labs, or escape rooms are great for blowing off steam.
  • Planting a group garden not only provides healthy food for all but allows you to do some earthing which is calming for most folks and has some proven health benefits.

Ultimately, the best activities are those that encourage bonding, learning, and growth, while promoting a sense of community and support within the group.

9. Online Community

Some men’s wellness groups may have an online component, such as a private forum or social media group, where members can connect, share resources, and continue conversations between meetings.

10. Feedback and Evaluation

The group may periodically gather feedback from members to evaluate how well the group is meeting their needs. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure it remains a valuable and supportive community.

How Can You Start a Wellness Group?

Starting a wellness group requires careful planning and consideration to create a supportive and effective community. Here are steps to help you get started:

1. Identify the Purpose and Focus

Determine the specific focus and goals of your wellness group. Are you focusing on mental health, physical fitness, emotional well-being, or a combination of these? Clarify the purpose to attract members who share similar interests and needs. Begin collecting resources and studying from the list of recommended sources below.

2. Define the Format

Decide on the format of your group, including how often you’ll meet, the duration of meetings, whether they’ll be in-person or virtual, and any structured activities or discussions you’ll include.

3. Recruit Members

Spread the word about your wellness group to potential members through word of mouth, social media, community bulletin boards, or online forums related to health and wellness. Clearly communicate the purpose and benefits of joining the group to attract interested individuals.

4. Establish Ground Rules

Create a set of ground rules or guidelines to ensure a positive and respectful environment within the group. This may include guidelines for confidentiality, respectful communication, participation, and handling disagreements.

5. Plan Meetings/Activities

Develop a schedule of meetings or activities for your wellness group to help foster community. Consider a variety of topics and activities to keep members engaged and motivated. You may also want to invite guest speakers or experts to share their knowledge and expertise.

6. Facilitate Discussions

As the group leader or facilitator, guide discussions to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate and that conversations remain focused on the group’s goals and objectives. Encourage open communication and active listening among members.

7. Promote Engagement

Encourage members to actively participate in group discussions and activities. Create opportunities for members to share their experiences, challenges, and successes, and provide support and encouragement to each individual.

9. Evaluate and Adjust

Periodically evaluate the effectiveness of your wellness group and make adjustments as needed. Solicit feedback from members to identify areas for improvement and ensure the group is meeting their needs and expectations.

There may be times when you need to ask a member to leave if they harm the unity of the rest of the group. Offer to help them find a wellness group more catered to their needs or health professionals that can offer the care they need.

10. Set up a Group Chat

Use Telegram, GroupMe, or WhatsApp (or a myriad of other chat options) to set up a private group chat. It’s a form of easy contact, allowing group members to continue conversations throughout the week and formulate a stronger community.

Where to Find Established Wellness Groups

If forming your own wellness group sounds too tedious, you can always consider joining an established one in your area or online. Depending on the group, you may need to have a formal mental health consultation prior to joining.

Your mental healthcare professional, primary care doctor, or hospital are all great resources to help you find a wellness community. They will usually have a list of support groups focused on mental health services that are operating in your area, but here are a few more ideas.

1. Meetup

Meetup is a platform where you can find groups based on your interests, including wellness-related topics such as mindfulness, meditation, fitness, mental health, and more. You can search for groups in your area and join ones that align with your interests.

2. Community Centers

Many community centers, recreational facilities, and local organizations host wellness groups and workshops on topics such as yoga, stress management, nutrition, and mental health. Check with community centers or browse their program schedules to find relevant offerings.

3. Social Media

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have groups dedicated to wellness topics. Search for relevant hashtags or join groups focused on health and wellness in your area. Here are some popular Facebook groups focused on health and wellness:

Men’s Health Network

This group provides support, resources, and discussions focused on men’s health issues such as prostate health, mental health, fitness, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Men’s Mental Health Support Group

This group offers a supportive community for men to discuss mental health challenges, share coping strategies, and provide encouragement to one another. Members discuss topics such as depression, anxiety, stress management, and self-care.

Men’s Health and Fitness Tips

Join this group for discussions on fitness, nutrition, and healthy living tailored specifically for men. Members share workout routines, nutrition tips, and motivation to help each other achieve their fitness goals.

4. Local Gyms and Fitness Centers

Gyms and fitness centers may offer group classes or programs focused on wellness, such as yoga classes, meditation sessions, or support groups for weight loss or stress management.

5. Online Forums and Websites

Explore online forums and websites dedicated to health and wellness, such as Reddit’s r/Wellness subreddit, or platforms like Healthline or Verywell Mind. In these forums, you can connect with others interested in wellness topics and find resources.

6. University or College Resources

College mental wellness is a big topic today, so most universities have wellness programs, support groups, or counseling services available to students. Check your school’s website or student services office for information.

7. Word of Mouth

Ask friends, family members, or colleagues if they know of any wellness groups or support networks in your area. They may be able to provide recommendations based on their own experiences.

8. Dual Diagnosis IOP

The Dual Diagnosis IOP is a wellness intensive outpatient program by The Behavioral Wellness Group that provides services for patients dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. In this program, they offer support and treatment to help people understand and manage both problems simultaneously, promoting well-being and helping the clients restore balance to their lives.

After an initial phone consultation with Dr. Michael Pollak, established clients can join virtual wellness classes via their website. They each offer a 24-session program with slightly varying agendas. Dr. Pollak’s course focuses on general substance abuse and mental health issues.

Dr. Maddie Mcdowell Rabah’s course is a 24-session program tailored for individuals aged 18-25 who are either enrolled in higher education or taking time off due to mental health concerns. Dr. Glovan’s 24-session program is centered around dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and general coping skills.

Trusted Medical Resources for Wellness Groups

Okay, we promised you resources, and here they are. One of the most important aspects of any wellness group (especially if you’re the facilitator) is making sure the material presented is scientific, relevant, and data-driven.

Group leaders need access to up-to-date and trustworthy information to support their members in making informed decisions about their health and well-being. Here are some accredited medical resources that men’s wellness groups can use:

1. Government Health Websites

Websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide evidence-based information on a wide range of health topics relevant to men, such as heart health, cancer prevention, and mental health.

2. Medical Journals

Tthe American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publish research articles on various aspects of men’s health, including studies on the effectiveness of different treatments, prevention strategies, and health behaviors.

3. Reputable Health Organizations

Organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) and Men’s Health Network offer resources specifically tailored to men’s health concerns, such as guidelines for screening tests, healthy lifestyle tips, and information on specific conditions like prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction.

4. Online Health Portals

Websites such as Mayo Clinic, WebMD, or Healthline provide comprehensive information on men’s health topics, including symptoms, causes, treatments, and preventive measures for various conditions. These websites often include articles written by medical experts and reviewed by healthcare professionals.

5. Community Health Centers

Local community health centers or clinics occasionally offer educational materials, workshops, or support groups focused on men’s health issues. These resources can provide valuable information on topics like nutrition, exercise, mental health, and preventive care, tailored to the needs of the community.

Closing Thoughts

A wellness group serves as support, empowerment, and growth for each of its members. A good group creates a space where vulnerability is met with understanding, and challenges are met with collective strength.

As you continue your journey towards improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being, remember that you are never alone! There are tons of people out there struggling from the same situations as you, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t join up and help each other through it.

Today is the day to drop the guilt, shame, or just procrastination and reach out to a group near you. If you’ve been through the wringer and back and have advice for others, now’s the time to start your own group. Let’s take advantage of the opportunities that are now available to us! Here’s to the ongoing pursuit of wellness, resilience, and brotherhood!

About Author
About Author

Abby is a professional relationship and travel writer currently working out of Southeast Asia. Before leaving for travel Abby was educated in biology and nursing and worked as a PICC nurse. While all things travel are her primary workload, she's passionate about seeing marriages and families thrive! Living, working, traveling, and spending every second of every day with her spouse has taught her a few valuable lessons about making a marriage work, and she's all about passing those nuggets of wisdom along. Abby is regularly published in multiple online spaces including Arkansas Frontier, Adventures From Scratch, Let's Roam, and Homebody Hall. You can also find her on YouTube at LostAmongLocals.

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