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

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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.”

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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.

“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

Are you ready to commit and change your life?

When you’re experiencing issues in life, your body often enters a “fight-or-fight” response, causing your breathing to speed up. This puts you in a state of hypervigilance and makes it difficult to confront your challenges head-on.

Many people have turned to breathwork to reverse this response and relax their bodies.

The most effective type of breathwork we’ve come across is shamanic breathwork because of its focus on connecting with the inner self. This can result in profound realizations and experiences that help you to confront whatever issue you’re facing.

If you want to try a shamanic breathwork exercise, we recommend the Ybytu masterclass by Rudá Iandê.

In this free masterclass, Rudá explains the background to shamanic breathwork and takes you through a powerful exercise to instantly bring calmness and ease into your life. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

Learn more about the Ybytu shamanic breathwork masterclass here.

Written by 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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