Have you wished family, friends and colleagues, “Happy New Year!” recently? I have. A new year causes us to reconsider what we’ve been doing and plan for how to do more of what we like, usually more of what makes us happy. It can be a delicate balance…more of this, less of that.
I was interested in a recent TEDx talk which revealed findings from the longest known study ever conducted into adult happiness. Conducted at Harvard University and spanning 75 years, this study has followed 724 men who were 19 years old when the study commenced in 1938; half were sophomores at Harvard and the other half were from disadvantaged backgrounds in Boston. Every two years the men have been surveyed about life satisfaction, career paths and quality of relationships with various health markers recorded along the way.
Robert Waldinger, the fourth and current director of the study explains their findings. “The lessons (about happiness) aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Additionally, Waldinger says that the study teaches three big lessons about relationships.
1. Social connections are good for us
2. Good relationships are protective to our physical health.
3. If we feel we can truly count on other people in times of need, our brain function stays sharper longer.
According to the findings of this unique study, it’s not your bank balance, how much recognition you get from others, your weight or your level of fitness that will be the biggest influence on whether this year is going to be a happy one. While maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active and interested and having sufficient funds to do what you need to do are important, it’s essential that we continue to work on the quality of our relationships.
As Waldinger says, “Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends is not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends…Many of our men when they were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth and high achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life. But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”
Where have you resolved to invest your time, effort and money this year? Whatever it is, may knowing that good relationships are the key to happy days, weeks, months and years inspire you!
If you can you spare 12 minutes and 46 seconds to watch this TEDx talk for yourself, here it is
Warmest wishes for a Happy New Year!