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Harvard Psychologists Unlock The Secret To Real Happiness

Harvard Psychologists Unlock The Secret To Real Happiness

We’ve all read those articles in a desperate attempt to add some happiness to our dismal lives. We’ve tried the checklists, added 172 things to our already busy days, and hopped on the bandwagon for the latest greatest fad that is just impossible to keep up.

The problem? Those are all unrealistic. This study, on the other hand, is logical, doable, and certainly not overwhelming.

Robert Waldinger, psychiatrist and director of Harvard’s Study of Adult Development, highlighted the key components for happiness in his TED talk in December. During the 75-year study, he followed 500+ white males divided into two cohorts. Group one consisted of 268 Harvard sophomores while group two had 456 12- 16-year-olds from inner-city Boston.

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Every two years a quality of life survey was administered to the men, and every five years their physical health was recorded. The scientists examined the men’s contentment in their jobs, social life, romantic relationships along with physical elements such as echocardiograms and blood tests.

The results all pointed to one word – community. Waldinger pinpoints the effects of this buzzword in three specific ways.

Close Relationships

The study revealed the astounding impact of loneliness and the lack thereof. Not only were the men who engaged in close relationships happier, but they were also healthier and tended to have a longer lifespan. Turns out making friends is actually the best medicine out there.

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There’s even a book entitled Friendfluence that couples scientific research with personal experience to show how much of a role friends play in our lives. (I don’t know about you, but I’m about to start weaving that clever word mashup into as many conversations as possible.)

If neither Harvard nor Friendfluence can convince you of this phenomenon, read this article from the Mayo Clinic. Apparently, friendships can “encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits.”

Quality Over Quantity

It’s not about how many friends you have but how close you are to them. Having a few quality friends is much better than having dozens of acquaintances. Waldinger even found that the men who had marriages that were full of arguments and lacked closeness were less healthy and happy than men who hadn’t gotten married.

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If you’re avoiding the Valentine’s Day hoopla this year, remind yourself that there are much worse things than being single. Here are 20 things right here.

While the quantity of relationships seemed to be a bit more important to the men when they were in their 20s, once the they hit their 30s, quality took over the number one spot. (Tip: this concept can also be applied to business.)

Secure Marriages

Having stable, constant relationships around has been proven to increase mental ability. Business Insider explains, “People who were married without having divorced, separating, or having ‘serious problems’ until age 50 performed better on memory tests later in life than those who weren’t.” Maybe improving your marriage would be even better for your brain than all of those sudoku puzzles.

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The effects of socializing on your mental ability are even more apparent in seniors. It’s been found to boost mental and emotional health.

“Success is nothing without someone you love to share it with.”

Ah, yes. The famous quote from Mahogany that pops up every time you scroll through quotes on Pinterest. Well, it may be cliché now, but according to the Harvard study, it couldn’t be more true.

So, if your happiness level is looking a bit low, try spending your weekend with friends and family instead of attached your laptop and cell phone. Text that friend you need to catch up with and set up a coffee date. Maybe even make it a habit to engage in some social activities on a regular basis.  It’s worth a shot, right?

Featured photo credit: Kate Ter Haar/flickr.com via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

2. Focus on your breath

Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

3. Get organized and purge old items

A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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6. Smile more

Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

7. Don’t worry about the future

As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

8. Eat real food

The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

9. Choose being happy over being right

Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

11. Make use of filtering features on social media

You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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12. Get comfortable with silence

When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

13. Listen to understand, not to respond

So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

14. Put your troubles in a bubble

Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

15. Speak more slowly

Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

16. Don’t procrastinate

Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

17. Buy a coloring book

Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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18. Prioritize yourself

You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

19. Forgive others

Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

20. Check your expectations

Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

21. Engage in active play

Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

22. Stop criticizing yourself

The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

26. Manage your money

Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

27. Stop trying to control everything

Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

28. Practice affirmations

Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

29. Get up before sunrise

Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

30. Be yourself

Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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