In the grand scheme of things, money's not that important. It's important only to the extent that it allows you to enjoy what's important to you. Despite this, a recent survey of Millennials found more than 80 per cent said their major life goal was to get rich. Another 50 per cent said that another major life goal was to become famous.
This is what they believed would make them feel happy and fulfilled.
Harvard professor Robert Waldinger is the director of a truly remarkable 75-year study that turns this notion on its head. Starting in 1938, it is the longest ‘happiness’ study of adult life ever conducted. It follows the lives of 724 men, from their teenage years right through to old age, to see what really keeps people healthy and happy. Year after year they have been interviewed in their homes and have answered questions about their work, their home life, their health, their deepest concerns. About 60 of the original 724 men (and for the last ten years, their wives) are still alive and participating in the study.
So what are the lessons learned from the tens of thousands of pages of information collected.
In a new TED talk, Waldinger reveals the links to happiness are not wealth or fame or working harder. The clearest message from this 75-year study is this:
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier – period!
Waldinger explains further the three main lessons from the study:
1. Social connections make us, and loneliness breaks us. "It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they're physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected," Waldinger said. "And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic."
2. You can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage. “The second big lesson that we learned is that it's not just the number of friends you have, and it's not whether or not you're in a committed relationship, but it's the quality of your close relationships that matters," he explains. "It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective." Waldinger goes on to say that “the study revealed that those that were most satisfied with their relations at age 50 where the healthiest at age 80”
3. "The third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don't just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that 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 stay sharper longer.”, Waldinger says.
"And the people in relationships where they feel they really can't count on the other one, those are the people who experience earlier memory decline. And those good relationships, they don't have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn't take a toll on their memories."
Waldigner's suggestion, if you want to be happy and healthy, is to “start leaning into your relationships”.
"Just like the Millennials in that recent survey, many of our men when they were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth and high achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life," he said.
"But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community. And those all too common family feuds take a terrible toll on those that hold the grudges”
This TED talk really is worth viewing – 12 minutes of your life well spent, I urge you to do it
You can view it here.
Then go and give your partner and kids a hug!
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