How to be happy is not taught in schools. If we learn the simple fact that: “Happiness is a choice…” our lives will be completely different.
Would you believe Harvard has been studying Happiness for 80 years?
Yes. The Happiness Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing your local community helps us all live longer, and be happier.
When scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 (during the Great Depression) they hoped the study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives.
What they discovered was way beyond what they imagined.
Following men for nearly 80 years as part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, researchers have collected a wealth of data on physical and mental health.
Of the original Harvard students in the Grant Study, only 19 are still alive, all in their mid-90s. Among the original recruits were President John F. Kennedy and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. (No Women were in the study as back then Harvard was all Male)
As the study grew to also include offspring and people in other cities, researchers were keen to study participants’ health trajectories and their broader lives, which included triumphs and failures in careers and marriage, and the findings fhave produced startling results/lessons, and not only for the researchers.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.” That fact is a revelation.
Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those connections protect people from life’s stresses, help delay mental and physical ailments, and have more impact in long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. This finding proved true across the board – among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants.
The long-term research has received funding from private foundations, but has been financed largely by grants from the National Institutes of Health, first through the National Institute of Mental Health, and more recently through the National Institute on Aging.
Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.
“When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”