Who doesn’t want to live an exceptional life?! A long life filled with unbelievable happiness?
The science shows that we can do this. With one key element.
CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS
How Do We Know?
One of the longest known studies on this topic took place at Harvard back when it was an all male school. Harvard has studied 268 men for 80 years (eventually they included their offspring as well).
The Harvard Study Of Adult Development revealed that of all these people, those with close relationships were happiest and most satisfied with their lives.
The findings were consistent regardless of how much money someone had, their IQ level, or how famous they were. This explains why so many rich and famous people can still be miserable!
Strong social ties was the largest variable that separated those in the study, but not for the reason we think. Of course, we have so many happy memories with people we love, and the skill of networking is essential for life success.
BUT we really need those close relationships because they help protect us from depression, and life’s inevitable hardships. Obviously, they help us better cope with everything life throws at us! The happiest people are those that feel they have others to turn to.
Do Relationships Impact Your Health Too?
Furthermore, those people that have close relationships also live longer lives. “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80,” said Robert Waldinger (head of the Harvard study).
Obviously people with strong bonds experience less depression, anger, and anxiety which can reek havoc on health.
Yet, we also know that they have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass indexes, and less mental decline as they age. Several separate studies even go on to say that satisfaction with relationships was a better indicator of future health than cholesterol levels! Wowza!
Here’s how they concluded the Harvard study on health….
A Personal Look – One Shockingly Clear Example
The Lesson To Takeaway
Lean into relationships with others! No matter where you are in life, it’s essential for wellbeing. And for me personally, building relationships was critical for a better postpartum experience.
Here are just a few ways to do it!
Have reoccurring events that force you to make relationships a priority.
Think about your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly traditions with others. When we do something regularly, we commit it to our schedules. Make a consistent wine night or annual trip. Strive to invite someone new over for dinner or dessert once a month. Yes, it’s stepping out of your comfort zone, and that’s a good thing! And don’t forget weekly family rituals and a date night with your spouse!
Push yourself to embrace community.
In our old neighborhood we were content to wave at neighbors, but never talk to them. Truthfully, we enjoyed being a little antisocial and quiet.
We moved a very short distance a few years ago, and our new neighborhood is much more community oriented. People are outside regularly, there are small neighborhood events, and many use a nearby trail. It’s shocking how different it feels. But, it is by far a happier environment.
For the first time, we feel we have a group of people around us that our kids can play with and we can count on if we need them. Now that I’ve seen both sides, we will never move.
So, push yourself to talk to your neighbors and be visible where they can see you. It’s not always easy. Most of us are not extroverts, myself included, but it is essential to your happiness!
Challenge yourself to really get to know them! This applies to all forms of community like school, work, and church as well!
Limit time on social media.
This one is hard because social media is a rabbit hole. But in the grand scheme of life, social media friends are not people that you can turn to. Therefore, they should not get precedence over real life. Limit this time to 30 minutes a day and focus on people you can speak to on a regular basis. It’s the QUALITY of our relationships that matters.
Give a gift, thank you, appreciation daily.
If you’re unsure how to improve relationships you already have or build new ones, this is a keeper. Strong social ties are built on being there for others and giving before you take. Make others feel good and they will want to be around you. I wrote an entire post about it the power of this concept HERE. These also don’t have to be big!
Make sure there are others that you can truly count on and that can count on you. It’s critical to your well-being!
The Harvard study correlates strongly with the Top 5 life lessons from the terminally ill, so there’s definitely a reoccurring theme!
Do you have people that you can turn to when life gets hard? How do you personally build close relationships?
*For many more ideas on how to make friends lifelong friends as an adult check out this new post HERE!
Want to check out more about the Harvard Study?
Here’s the TEDTALK “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness,” – It’s a little over 12 minutes!
“Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better” by the Harvard Gazette