Happiness – The Secret According to a 75-Year Long Study

Secret to Happiness

The Secret to Happiness? A Harvard Study has discovered that not-so-surprising answer.

Everybody wants happiness in their life, right? Most folks start off with the notion that money is the key to happiness. If you work hard enough and achieve “success”, you will be happy. But is that really the secret to happiness?

Since 1937, a dedicated group of Harvard researchers has conducted an exhaustive study of 724 men. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the few studies of its kind that has endured more than one generation.  The men included 268 sophomores at Harvard College and 456 teen-aged boys from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. The study followed the group as they  journeyed through life in many different directions. They got jobs, got married, and had kids. Some found great success professionally including one Harvard grad who became President of the United States – John F. Kennedy. Some gained great wealth and some lost great wealth. Some developed alcoholism, determined to be one of the most destructive disorder in life. And some found happiness. What was their secret?

There was one common thread for those who were the happiest, healthiest and lived the longest –  those who had the best relationships were better off than those that lived in conflicted relationships or felt lonely. It wasn’t the quantity of the relationships, it was the quality. The positive impacts of strong relationships translated into better health, better memories, longer lives, and overall satisfaction with their lives. The warmth of the relationships in your life has the greatest positive impact on your life.

“We used to think that if you had relatives who lived to a ripe old age, that was the best predictor” of a long life, said Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “It turns out that the lifestyle choices people make in midlife are a more important predictor of how long you live.”

My take? You are in the driver’s seat. Let’s face it, shit happens. And when you are younger, you have no control over the shit or the impact the it has on your daily life. As you get older, you have more control over your life, whether you accept control or not. You make your own choices.  And as it turns out, what’s going on in your life in your 50’s affects your later years much more than what happened earlier in life.  If something isn’t going your way, you can choose to do something different.  That’s the best news of all – it’s never too late to turn things around. You can choose to whine or appreciate, to wait or do, to hate or love. You can build the relationships that will bring you happiness.