By Conor McNabb
Happiness: a word that carries an immense amount of weight. It is more than just a feeling; it is a state of being that we all search for as humans. Happiness is one of the most important things in our lives. We toil, we grow, and we search for happiness. Some people work their whole lives to reach this point of contentment. For others, it is a feeling that comes and goes. The point is that we all want to be happy. It may be an intangible thing, but it is something we all desire.
The question I have for you is,: do you struggle with being happy? In other words, do you find yourself looking around and wishing you had a better, healthier life? If so, I have a little secret to share with you: the secret to happiness.
The other day, I was procrastinating on my homework and was browsing through my Facebook feed. I was scrolling and scrolling, and all of a sudden a link that my cousin shared grabbed my attention. The link brought me to a 13 minute TED Talk video titled “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.” It ended up being one of the most inspiring and eye-opening videos I have seen in a long time.
Robert Waldinger, a professor at Harvard Medical School, is also a psychiatrist and the fourth director of a seventy-five-year-old study on adult development. In this study, Wadlinger and a long list of others were able to track the lives of over seven hundred men. Year after year, they gathered more data to find out how we can live healthier and happier lives. The study started in 1938 with two groups, and there are still at least fifty participants alive today. One group was made up of two hundred and sixty-eight Harvard sophomores, and the other was four hundred and fifty-six boys ranging from ages twelve to sixteen, all of which grew up in inner-city Boston. This particular group was led by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck. Over the course of seventy-five years, interviews were conducted and medical exams were gathered from these individuals. From the vast information that was collected, Waldinger was able to produce the secret to real happiness.
There are three essential lessons pertaining to “real happiness.” These lessons were found from the study and are still being looked at today. The research staff have not only tracked the lives of the original participants, but they have also have interviewed their families to get a better understanding of happiness and how it can be attained.
Being socially connected is a key lesson, and it is something we should all recognize. Individuals who are more social end up having healthier lifestyles than those who tend to isolate themselves. You can be social with your friends, family, and coworkers. It is important to always stay connected because loneliness does kill. In the TED Talk with Waldinger, he noted that one of five Americans claim that they are lonely. To better ourselves and our future, try talking to new people and building relationships because life is ten times better when you have someone that you can count on.
2. Quality of Relationships
Another finding in the study is that the quality of relationships overpowers the quantity. This lesson ties in with the first one. You can be a very social person, but the healthy relationships you make with people are the ones that last a lifetime and are also the ones you should value. Remember to avoid unhealthy relationships; the people who bring you down are not your friends, so try to block them out. Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between real friends and the fake ones. The affectionate and warm relationships you make in life will bring out the better person in you. If you surround yourself with people who have similar morals, beliefs, and goals then you are more likely to be happy.
3. Stable, Supportive Relationships
Some people can manipulate and influence you in negative ways. It is critical that you dismiss these people. Instead of trying to fit in with a crowd or be liked by someone, you should focus on your close friends and family. Friends and family members can make great stable relationships and can certainly bring out happiness.But supportive relationships are so easy to ignore and we only realize how much these relationships mean to us when it's too late.
The TED talk with Robert Waldinger is insightful and genuine. If you want to learn more about the study that was conducted, simply go to robertwaldinger.com or watch the TED Talk. Everyone can learn and take something positive out from this study. Even though relationships can be messy at times, being connected with other people and having supportive relationships can help you live a happier life, a life of purity and gratification.
What Makes a Good Life? - TED Talk with Robert Waldinger