Harvard study on Happiness

Do you ever find yourself scratching your head wondering "how will I find happiness"? 

There was a recent survey given to millenniuls asking them what their most important life goals were. Over 80% responded by saying they would like to get rich, and over 50% of the same group shared that they would also like to attain fame in their lifetime. 

The not-so-subtle message we receive is to do more, work  harder and keep spinning that wheel until we achieve. 

The truth is that those are layers of sand covering the very treasure that hold  the secret of happiness. 

Harvard's 75 year study on Adult Development has quiet possibly been the longest study ever done. The researchers have been following  724 individuals, beginning in year 1938  tracking boys from teenage-hood, up until their current stage in life, tracking their work, home lives, health and professions. 

The research results proved that life isn't about how much fame, worth or work you've accomplished. 

What it did prove though, is that:

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.  

The 3 biggest lessons that came from this study were:

1) The necessity of Social Connections.

Those who are  socially connected to family, friends and have a sense of community, prove to be happier, physically healthier and live longer than those not well connected.  At this very moment 1/5 Americans report being lonely.

2) Quality of Relationship. 

We know that it isn't the NUMBER of friends or if you're in a committed relationship, rather it is the QUALITY of the relationships. The thing about loneliness is that you can be lonely in a crowd, with friends or even in your marriage. What provides protection is the warmth and security in those relationships. 

Research proves that living in midst of conflict is bad for your health. (which is why ending relationships with high conflict and little  affection is healthier for you than "sticking though". ) 

At age 50, the highest predictor of individuals health and how well they would grow old was not based on their cholesterol levels, rather it was based on how satisfied they were in relationships.  At age 80, those with wholesome relationships were in the best health. 

3) Healthy relationships protect our brains too!

Being in securely attached relationships keep  memories intact for longer and keep brains sharper, retaining information about ones self, others and old peoples' lives. However, there was a marked decline in memory and brain functioning in those lacking solid relationships. 

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Now, I'm wondering how you're doing reading this. 

I could imagine that reading this can be eye opening as well as overwhelming. 

Let's define what a good relationship is. 

It does not mean simply bliss all the time. You can bicker day in and out and still feels secure in your relationships. No one can tell you how to "do" your relationships, as we all function differently. One couple's daily arguments may have a flavor of sweet banter, yet that arguing daily can feel like the most difficult thing to survive in another relationship. 

The overarching importance is feeling that you can rely on the other person, knowing that they have your  back and you have someone to lean on. That's it.  You've got to invest day in and day out. Things get messy and complicated in relationships and its our job to tend to them.

Now, you may be wondering:

How am I meant to build relationships when...

Everyone around me already has a network of friends...

I'm shy and socially awkward...

No one will be interested in me...

Today, no one cares about real relationships...

I don't know how to do this thing called relationships...

I get it can feel difficult and it can be a big thing to venture out of your comfort zone. I also want you to live a richer life, so I'm going to ask you to identify one goal. Just one. 

Can you replace an hour of screen time for 20min of people time? Start up a conversation with the man or woman checking you out at the grocery, sign up for a volunteer job, reach out to a new person at work or study with a classmate you don't know that well. 

If you're a mom, you can offer to set up a play date for your child or pop in to your neighbor to say "hi" from an authentic place.

In your marriages, make time for date night, or even "date snack" of taking 15 min to just hear each other out, go on a long walk together, have family dinner time together and make it a habit. 

Liven up some stale relationships, reach out to family member you haven't spoken to in a while. Family feuds take a toll on those who hold grudges, so make today a day where you work towards clearing the inner stuff weighing you down. 

It's about being mindful of where you want to get to, and then taking steps to slowly getting there. 

 

Blessings to your health, happy relationships and living well into your old age!!