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Are You Happy? Harvard Study Reveals Single Most Important Factor For Wellbeing
Wellbeing: What contributes to a life well lived?
According to a 75-year revolutionary Harvard psychology study, it’s not the numbers associated with your bank account, your social influence, or even how much you achieve at work.
The digits on your scale, foods you eat or the number of times you hit the treadmill, don’t matter either. No, when it comes to feelings of happiness and a sense of wellbeing, it’s something we often don’t consider that matters the most.
The study, which followed two groups of men for a 75-year period gave psychologists unprecedented access to data on what contributes to true happiness and satisfaction.
So, what is the number one factor? According to the study’s current director, Robert Waldinger, “The clearest message that we got from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
That’s right, when it comes to feeling good the key is not “I” but “We.” The study identified three key reasons good relationships are important.
1. Without a social network, we suffer.
People who prioritize time with family, friends, and community reported feeling happier, were more physically healthy and lived longer than people who were less connected. In fact, “the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic,” Waldinger says. “People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, their health declines earlier in mid-life, brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives.”
2. Quality over quantity matters.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to jump on a dating site or start “friending” people on Facebook. It’s not the number of friends you have or even if you’re in a committed relationship, but rather how deep the relationships you do have impact your life. Is there someone you can call when the going gets tough? Do you genuinely feel that someone cares about your wellbeing? “Living in the midst of warm relationships is protective,” Waldinger says. “The people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50, were the healthiest at age 80.”
3. Good relationships protect our bodies and our brains.
Being in a securely attached relationship to another person is protective, Waldinger says. “If you really feel like you can count on another person in times of need, your memory stays sharper, longer.”
The bottom line?
Even though relationships can be hard and at times and “messy,” when we lean in, their benefits can far outweigh the challenges.