Our Relationships Do Make Us Happy!
Healthy relationships do make us happy!
As a counsellor, I often ask people what they want from sessions and the answer is, “happiness”.
Ever wonder what it takes to lead a genuinely content life? Well, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, often referred to as the “75-Year Study,” has been trying to answer that question since 1938.
This incredible study that has been going since before I was born, has followed a group of people over their lives to see what makes people happy. It started with 268 Harvard undergraduate men and evolved over time to include their families and descendants. It is the longest running study ever conducted and continues today. Incredible.
Some of the original members of this study are still alive today. One of the original group was American President John F Kennedy. From the people in the study, some went on to become what society would judge as “successful”. Businessmen, doctors, and lawyers. Others became drug addicts or alcoholics.
What came out of the study that is unexpected, is that a major influencer on happiness, was not this success (or failure), but the romantic relationships and the quality of them!
Pretty amazing all round really. What an incredible study. As a marriage counsellor, this makes me excited.
The group were asked questions every year and the lessons learned about what makes people truly happy have been quite surprising.
Here’s a look at some of the key insights that have emerged from this remarkable research.
Meaningful, supportive relationships are crucial for happiness. It’s not about having a vast network but about the depth and quality of connections with family, friends, and loved ones. Real connections, not numbers. Sounds good to me!
Life inevitably serves up challenges, and those who can adapt and cope with stress tend to be happier. Strategies like mindfulness and emotional intelligence play a vital role in maintaining well-being. If you don’t naturally have these, then learn them (yep, you can learn how to be more resilient).
Happiness As We Mature
Contrary to the notion that happiness declines with age, the study found that many people become more satisfied with life as they get older. As priorities shift and less important concerns fall away, contentment often increases. Wisdom with age perhaps?
Physical And Mental Health
Physical health and mental well-being are intertwined. Leading a healthy lifestyle through exercise and a balanced diet not only promotes physical health but also enhances happiness and longevity.
Acts of kindness and volunteering can significantly boost happiness and provide a sense of purpose. Giving to others can be just as fulfilling as receiving. In fact, other studies have shown that volunteering makes us happy too.
When I first read about this study I didn’t tune in too much. It hit my radar, (I enjoy learning all sorts of random things), but I didn’t do much else with it. Recently, I started looking into this more fully from a counselling perspective. Since clients are searching for happiness, looking into this study was an obvious step.
The part that really resounds for me as a marriage counsellor, is that we need to really look after our relationships to look after our own happiness.
Healthy relationships are what matter most. The human connection is what we are all seeking. Yet we often place more value on money or fame, social standing or IQ. The study showed us that true happiness came from the close relationships. The healthy relationship helped the participants be truly happy. These relationships supported both mental and physical health.
75 years of study can’t be wrong! Our relationships make us happier.
Though it started with a group of Harvard men, the lessons from the 75-Year Study are for all if us. It reminds us that authentic happiness comes from nurturing meaningful relationships, developing resilience, and embracing life’s challenges as opportunities for growth.
In a world often preoccupied with material pursuits, the study teaches us that genuine happiness is an ongoing journey within ourselves. It encourages us to focus on what truly matters, cherish our connections, and view life’s fluctuations as part of a profound and enriching experience.
So….what have you done today to support your happiness through your connections?
Here if you need.