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“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.” – Mark Twain.
A TED talk by Robert Waldinger on a 75-year-long study of adult life teaches us the secret to a long, healthy and happy life.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development followed 724 men for 75 years. There were two groups of men. The first group were sophomores from Harvard College, most of whom went off to fight in the war. The second group were boys from Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods, most were troubled and disadvantaged. Every two years they were asked questions about their work, home lives and health.
Here are some of the lessons learned:
- Most of the men started out thinking that in order to have a good life you had to become rich and famous. Later in life, it was learned that happiness was not about wealth, fame or working harder.
- It was found that good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
- Social connections are really good for us, and loneliness kills. Those people who had good relationships with their family, friends and community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than people who are less connected.
- It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you are in a committed relationship, but it is the quality of your close relationships that matters. Living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health.
- The people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from the slings and arrows of getting old.
- Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. The people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stayed sharper longer.
- The people who fared the best in life were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends, and with community.
This is old wisdom that deep down we already know, but sometimes we can find it difficult to prioritise. Relationships are messy and hard work, and we seem to want a quick fix for our health and happiness.
Robert suggests these first steps towards your happy life:
- Replace screen time with people time.
- Liven up a stale relationship by doing something new together, like long walks or date night.
- Reaching out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in a while.
“The good life is built with good relationships”.
Don’t wait. Start now. This is important for your health and happiness.
For more about Robert Waldinger:
For further reading on the Harvard Study:
Watch the TED Talk here: