The International Day of Happiness has rolled around once again, and although the event may feel like a forced affair for some, I like to think of it as an excuse to stop and consider what really brings people joy in life.
The concept of happiness is one that we humans like to ponder a lot. How do we find it? When we do find it, how do we keep it safely in our grip? And what do we do if, at times, we lose hold of it?
While there is no definitive answer to all of this, we do have some clues. And one 85-year-long study has some pretty solid insights.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been looking into what makes people happy since 1938. The study began with a group of 724 people and since, has incorporated 1,300 descendants from this group.
The study used a number of interviews, questionnaires and surveys to get a solid picture of the state of these participants. As you can read in this piece in the Atlantic, there was one element that appeared to have the biggest impact on life satisfaction: fulfilling relationships.
It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget how much of an impact your close relationships have on your happiness levels.
In the excerpt published in the Atlantic by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz of The Harvard Study of Adult Development, it shares that “good relationships lead to health and happiness”.
And while there is certainly data that suggests good relationships are connected to increased well-being, “You don’t have to examine scientific findings to recognise that relationships affect you physically,” the excerpt reads.
“All you have to do is notice the invigoration you feel when you believe that someone has really understood you during a good conversation, or the tension and distress you feel after an argument, or how little sleep you get during a period of romantic strife.”
Overwhelmingly, the Harvard study (and other research in this space) indicates that investing time into relationships is one of the surest ways to boost your happiness levels. And yet, we invest far more time and energy into things like work, social media and streaming.
As this Berkley article writes, the 85-year study on happiness showed that many of those who dedicated time towards things like successful jobs ended up worse off emotionally and physically. Others who may have been considered less successful in some ways found satisfaction from strong relationships and ended up living good lives.
While of course there is always nuance to data and there will be times when strong relationships cannot help ease difficulties in life, it is still a good reminder for us all to take a look at our priorities and ensure we’re placing our focus the parts of our lives that give us the most in return.
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