A 75-year Harvard study: The most important factor in human happiness

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frank mckenna Fg9l2rojs24 unsplash A 75-year Harvard study: The most important factor in human happiness

Have you ever heard of the Harvard study that ran for 75 years to assess what makes us happy? It’s a revolutionary study in psychology.

It followed the lives of two groups of men for over 75 years, and it now follows their Baby Boomer children to understand how childhood experience reaches across decades to affect health and wellbeing in middle age.

So what keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?

If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken.

As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction and he lays it all bare in the Ted talk below.

So what is the number one factor in your happiness and wellbeing? According to Waldinger:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”

Yep, the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love.

Specifically, the study showed that having someone you can rely upon helps your nervous systems relax, helps your brain stay healthy, and reduces emotional pain.

The data also clearly found that those who feel lonely and have no close friends are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier and die younger.

buddha quote 1 A 75-year Harvard study: The most important factor in human happiness

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge group of friends, or if you’re in the perfect romantic relationship, it’s the quality of the relationships that counts – how much depth and honesty exists within them; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are.

This a very good reminder to prioritize authentic connection with others. Because the data is clear that, in the end, you could all have the money you’ve ever wanted, but without loving relationships, you won’t be happy.

For a deeper dive into the significance of this study and what it truly means, check out this video below.

NOW WATCH: Here are my 5 unconventional tips to living a happy life

Love yourself first and everything else falls into place

It may sound conceited or narcissistic to focus on loving yourself first. But it’s not.

The point isn’t to believe you’re better than others or to accept things about yourself that you really do need to change.

It’s about developing a healthy and nurturing relationship with… you!

Loving yourself is about committing to who you are, understanding the many different nuances to your identity, and showing yourself a level of care and intimacy that we usually reserve for other people.

Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to love ourselves from an early age. And we end up caring about what others think of us rather than focusing on what we need at a more fundamental level.

This is why we partnered with Rudá Iandê to produce a free masterclass on transforming our relationships through the practice of self-love.

It’s currently playing on The Vessel (one of our partners) but only for a limited time.

<< The Art of Love & Intimacy with Rudá Iandê >>

Thousands have attended and told us that the masterclass has completely transformed their relationships for the better.

It’s a must-watch and we couldn’t recommend it more highly.

 

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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