“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”
– George Sand
There has been an amazing study done at Harvard that has lasted over 75 years. Robert Waldinger describes this study in a new TED talk, and the findings are hopeful.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.
It’s not more money, it’s not longer hours at work, it’s not fame and fortune . . . (*but we knew that didn’t we?)
What they learned is this:
The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
Three big lessons were learned about relationships.
The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic.
The second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.
And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.
So in a nutshell, the study tells us that the good life is built with good relationships. And we can all work on that.
I’d like to close as Dr. Waldinger closed, with a quote from Mark Twain:
“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
I’d love to hear about how you nurture your relationships. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.