Who doesn’t want to be happy? What does being happy mean? Is happiness truly attainable or is it something that frustrates us as we pursue it?
Harvard psychologist Robert Waldinger researched what really brings a person happiness or feeling happy. The study lasted a whopping 75 years and some 700 people were surveyed on their quality of life, social activities and work atmosphere.
Every two years they were interviewed and every five years their health was measured. And what did it turn out? Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. These can be love relationships, but also relationships with friends and family.
So, if you want to start experiencing more happiness in your life, these are the 3 keys to true happiness:
1. Close relationships
Robert Waldinger’s research shows that people who have a closer relationship with their friends, family and environment would be healthier and happier, than their less social peers. These people also lived longer, unlike the more solitary people.
Loneliness can also be a feeling you can have on your own, in the midst of others. It is about being able to feel the connection with yourself and with others. Hence, investing in personal development creates a closer connection with yourself. Moreover, loneliness has a bad impact on your mental functioning, sleep and general well-being. Read here in my newsletter a simple exercise to get a better connection with yourself by letting go of negative patterns.
2. Quality of relationships
It’s about quality and not quantity in relationships. It is not about how many friends you have or whether you see family every week or whether you have been married for 30 years.
Just the fact that you have so many relationships is not enough; what matters is the quality of the relationship. Imagine being married for 30 years but making each other’s lives miserable every day or your family gets together often but there is an underlying toxic dynamic of jealousy and envy.
3. Satisfaction about relationships
From the study, Robert Waldinger learned that it wasn’t the men’s cholesterol numbers that predicted how they would age. It was their satisfaction with their relationships. The subjects who were most satisfied with their relationships at age 50 were healthiest at age 80.
According to psychiatry professor Jim van Os, the need to connect with each other is vital: “The quality of our relationships is the foundation of our lives.”
With good relationships, we build a buffer against the disadvantages of aging. The people with the happiest relationships reported, after age 80, that on the days when they suffered most physically, they remained as happy. But those in unhappy relationships reported that their physical pain, on days when it was worst, was increased by emotional pain.
In my newsletter, I describe an exercise to learn to let go and reconnect with yourself and others to optimize. In addition, in my newsletter, I again share some book tips that fit this purpose.
Lack of connection is the true crisis of our time. How can you connect more with yourself? Take better care of yourself and be more gentle with yourself? And how can you start connecting qualitatively better with others? For your own health and the health of others.
In my book Kom tot de Kern, there is an interesting exercise on pages 46 and 47 about mapping the quality of your relationships. Examine for yourself where you stand in relation to others and is the place you want to be? How would you like the relationships to be and what needs to happen for that to happen. That way you can gain insight into what you would like to do specifically to improve your quality of relationships.
Wishing beautiful holidays full of connection and love.
For yourself and others.
See also the link to the 12 minute Tedtalk by Robert Waldinger ‘What makes a good life lessons from the longest study on happiness’.