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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 December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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