How is true happiness and our health related?
Here’s a thought. “GOOD relationships keep us HAPPIER and HEALTHIER.”
Our relationships and how happy we are in them have a powerful influence to our health, according to Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a psychiatrist, and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
The study which began in 1938 during the Great Depression is now 80 years old, considered one of the world’s longest studies of adult life. Researchers followed the lives of 724 men, with yearly follow ups on a to ask about life at home, work, and health.
He shared that caring for our body is important, but working on our relationships is also self-care. People who leaned into good relationships, with family, friends, and community did best in health.
The following are the main points of the study:
- The more socially connected one is, the happier one becomes. Loneliness kills.Social connections are really good for us, and loneliness kills. People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, and to community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than those who are less well connected.
On the other spectrum, keeping to ourselves and experiencing loneliness is toxic. When one is more isolated compared to how they want to be from others, one becomes less happy. Brain functioning goes down sooner. In midlife, health worsens earlier. They tend to live shorter lives than truly happy people.
- Pick quality over quantity in relationships.
What matters is the quality of our close relationships. Work on making healthy relationships, because our willingness to commit to a person is not enough to make the relationship work.Troubled marriages, such as those without much affection, become very bad for one’s health. It may be worse than getting separated. Oppositely, people with close, good, warm relationships have the ability to enjoy life amidst challenges.
Happily partnered 80-year-olds reported that on days that they had more pain physically, they remained just as happy. Among those in unhappy relationships, physical pain increased through more emotional pain.
- Good relationships are protective to our brain.Good relationships have the power to enhance memory. Those who feel they can count on their partner during times of need (including challenging times) have sharper, longer-lasting ability to remember. When they felt they couldn’t count on their partner in the relationship, there was early memory decline.
Prof. Waldinger recommended to replace time spent watching TV/ movies/ gadget use with people time to develop happier, stronger, and positive relationships.
Personal time suggestions include the following:
- long walks
- date nights
- reconnecting to a family member who one has not spoken to for years
Finally, the study showed that the ones most satisfied in their relationships at 50 years old were the healthiest at age 80.
May you have happier and healthier relationships!
Blessing and healing,