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Lessons from the longest study on happiness


Lessons from the longer study
about happiness

What makes a successful life?

Next weekend will be Mother's Day and for the occasion I have prepared a little gift guide for you which is not only beautiful and good, but even more, is an excuse to take time for yourself, to live more slowly and to appreciate all the little moments of everyday life. What better to offer! Because yes, as long as you give something, you might as well put the emphasis on what will continue to perpetuate small sparks on a daily basis!

And then, for something even more personalized I suggest taking the time to write a little note by hand! Yes, it obviously takes a little longer, but it goes straight to the heart and creates connections with the people you love.

I'm telling you this because this week I listened to a Ted Talk on happiness and what makes for a successful life and apparently good relationships make us happier and healthier.

This is the finding of a study started 75 years ago by Harvard and carried out on 724 men. Now in its fourth generation as a researcher, three major lessons have emerged.

The first is that social connections are very good for us and loneliness kills. Indeed, it turns out that people who are more socially connected to their family, their friends, their community, are happier, are physically healthier, and live longer than those who are less well connected. Experiencing loneliness therefore appears to be toxic. People who are more isolated from others than they would like turn out to be less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain capacity declines faster, and they have shorter lives than people who are not alone. And the saddest thing is that at any one time, more than one in five Americans report feeling lonely.

"It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, community, are happier" - Robert Waldinger

And we know you can feel lonely in a crowd and lonely in a couple, so the second lesson we learned is that it's not just how many friends you have, wherever you are or not committed to a relationship, but it's the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is very bad for our health. Conflict marriages for example, without much affection, are very bad for our health, maybe even more so than divorce. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.

Finally, the third big lesson learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don't just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a solid relationship with another person during your 80s is protective, that people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person if need be, memory of these people stays sharp longer. And people in relationships where they don't feel they can rely on each other, those people are the ones who have experienced early memory declines. And those good relationships, they don't have to be smooth all the time.

Like Millennials in this recent survey, many of the men, when they were young adults, truly believed that fame, wealth, and work were what they needed to pursue in order to succeed in life. But again and again, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who did best were the people who relied on relationships with family, friends, communities.

So... maybe this isn't the time to celebrate the human connection, because the important thing is the connections!!!! And the real connections! So let's make them all the place for this beautiful party!

Want to make a gift that does good?

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