What keeps us healthy and happy throughout our lives?
Have you ever thought where would you invest your time if you knew the secret of balanced and healthy life?
Robert Waldinger, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares the results of the amazing research that was done by Harvard study of adult development – the research lasted 75 years, with 724 people participating in it. During 75 years of research, all participants were observed and they were questioned about their lives, their successes and failures. Researchers could watch their entire lives to see what makes them happy.
At the beginning of the study, majority of the participants (teenagers age) were asked to respond to the question: What are your important goals in life?
More than 80% responded that their goal is to become rich
More than 50% responded that their goal is to become famous
All the participants of this research were from different social groups – some of them were studying in Harvard University and some of them were from the poorest families at the time of joining the research.
Throughout the research some of them became lawyers, factory workers, presidents of the companies, some of them had an amazing careers. Some of them not.
As the participants were turning into adults, their goals have been changing. At the end of the research there was not even one participant who acknowledged that the most important goals were- wealthy life, hard work, or becoming famous.
The simple outcome from the research is: Good relationships keeps us happier and healthier.
What are the lessons that come from this long lasting research?
1. First lesson: social connections are good for us, loneliness – kills. People who have stronger connections with their families, with their friends, or with their community – are psychically healthier and happier, they live longer. Loneliness – is toxic. People that are more isolated than they would like to be live shorter, their brain functioning declines sooner.
We all know that we can be lonely in a family, we can be lonely in a crowd, therefore the second lesson is:
2. It’s not about the number of friends that we have, it’s about quality of our close relationships, this is what matters. Living with conflict affects negatively on our health. Living in a good relationships – is protective. Good, close relationships has a positive impact on our emotional and physical health.
3. Good relationships protect our brains: at the age of 80 participants who were involved in social connections, had a better memory and could clearly remember the key points from their lives.
Any relationship cannot be always as smooth as we imagine, however as long as we can count on another person – this is what matters. Participants who achieved a lot were surrounded by people that they could count on. This what distinguished successful participants from the ones that did not achieve a lot.
According to Robert Waldinger, the problem of our society is that we want a quick fix. We are always ready ¨to get¨ instead of ¨to give¨. Whereas for friends, family and community – these are lifelong connections that require time and efforts in order to maintain them and convert into quality relationships.
The research had shown that the happiest people are the ones who leaned into relationships with family, friends and community. The most successful were the ones replacing workmates with playmates.
I invite you to honestly answer the following questions:
What about your important goals? What are they? Are you spending too much efforts on building wealthy life? If there is something you can refuse in order to spend more time with your people? Maybe it’s not worth it staying extra hours at work, because we will never get the time back, the time that we could spend with our families and friends.
Think about where do you invest your time? Think about possibilities on how to enrich your connections in case you feel you don’t have enough?
Possibilities are endless: replacing screen time with people time, or lightning up relationships with doing something new together, or reaching out to someone from your family, showing your interest to them.
Good life is built with good relationships.