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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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