What is it that really makes life great?
Would you like the real recipe for a happy and healthy life? One that really works? One that is tried and tested and researched? Well, today I'd love to share the answer with you. And yes, you've guessed it, it is no quick fix. This recipe for sustained health and happiness comes from a TED talk I watched last week by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger. He gives the results of a remarkable 75 year long study on what really makes us happy. The answers are as old as the hills, yet have been ignored by many. This talk really stirred something in me, so I have decided to give you a short summary of the three important lessons learned from the study on how to live a fulfilling, long life. I encourage you to take the time (only 15 mins) to click on the link below to watch this talk yourself.
Dr Waldinger talks about this 75 year long study which started in 1938 and followed 724 young men throughout their adulthood. To date 60 of the original participants are still alive and are still part of the study.
The overall result can be summed up in this single statement:
Good, close relationships keep you happier and healthier throughout life.
Three key points were:
Social connections are really good for you. They keep you physically healthier and are proven to keep you living a longer life. People who are isolated are less happy, have health issues starting earlier in life and live shorter lives.
It's not about the number of friends you have .....(and no, FaceBook friends don't count), it's the quality of your close relationships that count. Living in the midst of conflict is really bad for your health. Good, warm relationships are protective. The study showed that the people most satisfied with relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. He even goes on to say that good relationships were a greater predictor for longevity than cholesterol levels! (I am not advocating that you now start ignoring your cholesterol...)
Good relationships not only protect our bodies, but our brains too. The people who were in close relationship with another person they could count on had greater clarity of mind as they grew older.
In conclusion, this study shows that the people who fared best over their life time were those who leaned into meaningful relationships with family, friends and community.
So, yes, taking time out for a coffee, a good chat and a laugh with a dear friend or a family member is what really brings happiness to your soul and health to your mind and body.
ps. The picture above is of me with two of my gorgeous cousins. We have been great friends for over 40 years!