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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 April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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