Good life. This is the prize we are all working towards. To look back at life and know that you did everything in your power to live it to the full: happy, healthy, and maybe even prosperous.
There is good news for a good living. A recent study revealed a secret that can most positively influence longevity, physical health and keep your mind sharp as you age.
Robert Waldinger is a psychologist at Zen Priest and, most importantly, the fourth director of the EELC Harvard Study on Adult Development, one of the most extensive longitudinal studies in history and the longest study of happiness. The study looked at people throughout their lives to understand which factors contributed most to happiness, good health and longevity.
Nearly 80 years ago, this study began tracking the lives of 724 men who have been interviewed over the decades to answer in-depth questions about their lives, relationships, work situations, physical and mental health, and family life. The study also included medical history and brain scans.
All participants started in 1938 when they were in their teens. About a third were Harvard students, including John F. Kennedy, and the rest were boys from Boston's poorest neighborhoods, chosen because they came from the region's most problematic and disadvantaged families. Because Harvard was a school for all men at the time, the study included only men.
Currently, about 19 men, aged 90 and over, remain in this study, and the study now covers the initial nearly 2000 children of these 724 men.
The study found that what makes a good life is not what one would expect. It is not a socio-economic situation, income, physical appearance, educational level or occupation.
The secret to happiness?
Just, the answer is good relationships.
We know that leaning into your body is essential, but your relationships are also a form of self-care. Intimacy protects people from mental and physical decline – and it turns out that intimacy predicts happiness better than social class, IQ, and even genes.
Three main conclusions
- Social ties are good for us – loneliness kills. Those who are more socially connected with friends, family, and community were happier, healthier, and lived longer. The more isolated were less fortunate, experienced health, and brain function declined earlier in life and eventually died earlier.
- The quality of your relationship is important. Living in the middle of a conflict is detrimental to your health. Living in a warm, supportive relationship is protective. In fact, when looking at participants retrospectively, they found that those in their 80s were the healthiest who were most satisfied with their relationships at age 50.
- Good relationships protect our bodies and brains. Being firmly attached to its 80s people, it is defensive. People in relationships where they feel they can rely on each other when needed have memories that last longer. When in a relationship where they feel they are unable to count on each other, the earlier memory drops.
Many of us sacrifice the time we invest in relationships with the ones we care about most because we feel we earn them best by fulfilling our responsibilities and obligations, working harder, longer time to make more money, and so on.
The irony is that taking time out of these relationships will simply damage our health. Yes, we have to eat well and we also have to workout. But we also need to devote time to building and protecting these high-quality relationships.
Here is the best life, with the most important.
For more information listen to Robert TEDTalk. Enjoy!
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