What is the source of true happiness? Philosophers, scientists, psychologists and spiritualists have been seeking the answer to this question for countless years. On asking this question to ordinary people, most of them claimed that it is wealth, fame and recognition that can make them happy. But can all rich and famous be called happy? Human psychology is so complex that we ourselves have been unable to discern what really can make us happy.
So, a study was conducted by the Harvard Medical school on its 268 sophomore students during the years 1939-1944 and a group of teenagers from Boston’s poorest neighborhood. The aim was to document their entire lifetime and determine what made them happy. It has been 75 years since then study began and is still going on. 60 of its total 724 participants are still alive and are mostly in their 90’s.
The study has revealed that it is not money or fame but good relationships that can really bring us happiness.
Not just that, the participants who had good relationships were relatively healthier throughout their lives than those who didn’t.
In this video Robert Waldinger, Harvard psychologist and Grand study director talks about the 75 years of the study and its revelations.
The three major learnings of the study
1. Being socially connected is very important
Loneliness can literally make you sick. It deters a person’s life expectancy and can have adverse effects on their health. So it is very important to build relationships and stay socially connected to people.
2. Quality of relationships matters
Having numerous relationships is not the key to a happy and healthy life. The kind of bond you share and the depth of the relationship is what matters. The participants of the study who were in warm and loving marriages live/lived healthier and happier lives. In contrast those who had constant conflicts and arguments in their marriage led unhappy lives and their health also didn’t fare too well.
3. Good relationships protect our minds
The positive effects of good relationships are not limited to happiness and health. Good relationships also protect our minds. The participants who had been good and reliable relationships showed that their brains stayed sharper more longer those who had been lonely or were in bad relationships.
In the end Robert Waldinger deeply emphasizes on the importance of good relationships and advises-
- To reach out to loved ones and resolve conflicts
- To do something special together
- To divert time from social media to people close to you