Finally, We Know What Makes Life Happy



We often hear from those who have gone through some sort of life experiences say that happiness is a choice. They said that happiness is not found in financial and material gains, nor is it found in the callous search of sexual satisfaction, nor in the consolidation of power and status. It requires no understanding of quantum mechanics or economics, but instead just the simple act of making a choice.

Many would have easily dismissed these often old and gray category of the society as experiencing an extended version of their senior moments. Such dismissal is not invalid for they have no basis of proof or evidence. This world is one that has evolved into an evidence based living, for example, in education there is evidence based learning, in medicine there is evidence based drugs and in psychotherapy there is evidence based therapies.

Many will demand the show of proof that happiness is a matter of choice and not otherwise found in a bloated bank account, skirmish sex adventures, and the acquisition of power and status.

Robert Waldinger, a fourth generation Harvard researcher of the longest study of human development, the more than 75-year-long Grant Study commissioned in 1938 that began with a group of men in Harvard College and later teamed up with a similar one that had been following a group of young men from inner-city Boston tenements since the 1940s.

The interesting part that these researchers did not see coming was of those men studied from Harvard College, four ran for U.S. Senate, one served in a presidential Cabinet, one became the President of the United States (John F. Kennedy) and the other the editor of Washington Post (Ben Bradlee).

The study contrasted social status and upbringings in a population of white males. These men's emotional and physical well-being were assessed on a regular basis. Tracking their lives from young adult through old age, numerous deductions were drawn, yet the most remarkable finding was this: From the two groups of participants, the happiest and healthiest were those who devoted time to sustain closely-knit, intimate relationships.

It was those having fulfilling relationships who were the happiest and healthiest.

In TedTalk, Waldinger said, “And good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old.”

In contrast, those who were solitary and lonesome were found to be sadder, saddled with health issues in their midlife, their brain operation diminishes quickly and they tend to die sooner. The so called "good life" as exploited by commercial programs that propagate material success, wealth, fame, and status will not create health and happiness as noted by Waldinger.

It is the "real effort" put into creating relationship with others that will produce health and happiness.

Relationships created through social media and those of the nature of controversy e.g. abusive marriage or an unreliable friend will have no such effect.

So, finally, we know what makes life happy is relationship building. Not those on social media but the ones where we visit an old friend at his house, or have the long talk over a cuppa even when you need to leave but because you want to be there for him or her, or dropping by the retirement home to put someone's day ahead of yours. :D

by Aloy L. Counsellor, Therapist, Speaker. He has rigorously trained in counselling and psychotherapy, served full-time in ministries, and worked businesses on solid principles. His calling and mission are to counsel and speak Hope to all.

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References:

Barness, S., (2015). Harvard's 75-year study reveals the secret to living a happy life. And here it is. A Plus: Lifestyle. Retrieved from http://aplus.com/a/75-year-harvard-grant-study-happiness?

Buzzworthy. What makes us happy, according to a 75-year Harvard study. Retrieved from https://www.buzzworthy.com/harvard-grant-study-men-and-happiness/

Feelguide, (2013). 75 years in the making: Harvard just released its epic study on what men need to live a happy life. Retrieved from http://www.feelguide.com/2013/04/29/75-years-in-th-making-harvard-just-released-its-epic-study-on-what-men-require-to-live-a-happy-life/

Lewis, T., (2015). A Harvard psychiatrist says 3 things are the secret to real happiness. Business Insider Malaysia, RevAsia. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.my/robert-waldinger-says-3-things-are-the-secret-to-happiness-2015-12/?r=US&IR=T#VoktIUFDFstGvcDy.97