Every birthday or Christmas we’d pick up the phone to hear “I wish you all the happiness in the world!”
But what do we mean by that? Money? Fame?
Harvard Study of Adult Development, which may well be the longest study of adult life in history, shows it’s something much simpler and much more profound at the same time.
The study, now led by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, follows the lives of 724 men from 1930s till present. The amount of data is enormous. But, as Waldinger shared in his Ted Talk, there’s one thing woven through all these reports. That is, “good relationships keep us happier and healthier”.
So what exactly can we learn from the 79-year-long research to make our lives better?
Loneliness kills. Whether you are seven or 70, it would do you good to find someone to talk to. The study shows that being surrounded by friends and family or engaged in the community life doesn’t just lift the person’s spirits – it also has a huge impact on their physical and mental health.
It’s not the quantity of your connections that counts, it’s the quality. Staying in a bad marriage can be as toxic as not having a relationship at all, if not worse. But if you are loved, it will improve your health and delay aging.
Strong relationships protect us from life’s trials. Being in a committed relationship in later life can slow down memory loss as well as make us feel better. And it doesn’t have to be all butterflies and rainbows, the important thing is that you can count on each other.
“When we gathered together everything that we knew about them [the participants] at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old, it was how satisfied they were in their relationships,” Waldinger shared.
So if you want to improve your life, work on your relationship first. Everything else might just fall into place afterwards.