What makes us happy and healthy while we pass through life?
If you think it's fame and money, you're not the only one, but according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're wrong! Like manager on 75 a year study on adult behavior, Waldinger has access to information first hand for true happiness and satisfaction. In this conversation, he shares three important lessons from his research as well as some practical onesas old as the world of wisdom, about how to build a long and rewarding life.
If you could now invest in your best future self, what would you devote your time and energy to?
Recently was conducted study among those born around the turn of the century to which were asked: What are the most important goals in their lives? - over 80% of them declarethat the main goal in their lives is to get rich. Дother 50% of the same young people they saythat another important goal in their lives is to become famous. Нand we were constantly told to work, to work harder and to achieve more. We thought these were the things we should strive for in order to have a good life. Paintings whole lives, the choices that people make, and how those choices affect them, are almost impossible to draw. Most of what we know about human life we have learned from the memories of други people, and as we know, the judgment of people for the events it's not always quite is accurate. We forget a huge number of things that have happened to us in our lives, and sometimes our memory is obviously and more creative.
But what would it be? be, if we could trace how whole human lives evolve over time? What if we could study people, from their teenage years until they grew up as adults, to see what actually makes people happy and healthy? In fact, we did just that. The Harvard Study on Adult Behavior is perhaps the longest-running such study to date. For 75 years we have traced the lives of 724 men, which means that year after year we have been asking about their work, their birthplace, their health and of course, we have been asking questions without knowing how their lives will develop in the future.
Studies like these are extremely rare and almost all projects of this kind fall apart by the tenth year, because too many people drop out of the study, or funding stops, researchers abandon it, or rest and no one takes over the baton afterwards. But thanks to the combination of luck and the persistence of several generations of researchers, this study survived. About 60 of our original 724 men are still alive and continue to participate in the study, most of them already in their 90 years. We are now beginning to study the 2000 children of these men, and I am the fourth study leader.
Since 1938, we have traced the lives of two groups of men. The first group included in the study when they were sophomores at Harvard College. They all graduated from college during World War II and most of them join the college. The second group we followed throughout the survey was a group of boys from one of Boston's poorest neighborhoods. Boys who were selected for the study because they were from one of the most disadvantaged families in Boston in the 30 years of the 20 century. Most of them lived in cheap accommodation without hot and cold running water. When these surveys began, all these teens were interviewed and underwent medical examinations. We went to their homes and interviewed their parents. Over time, these teenagers turned into adults who embarked on different paths of life. They became workers in factories, lawyers, bricklayers and doctors, one of them the President of the United States. Some became alcoholics, some developed schizophrenia. Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom to the very top, while others went the same way, but in the opposite direction.
The creators of the study, even in their wildest dreams, hardly imagined that I would be here today, after 75 years, informing you that the study is still ongoing.
Every two years, our patient and dedicated employees call our men and ask them if we can send them another questionnaire about their lives. Many people in central Boston ask us, "Why do you keep exploring me? My life is not that interesting at all. " (Harvard men never ask this question). To get the clearest idea of their lives, we not only send out questionnaires. We interview them in their living room. We get their medical records from their doctors. We take their blood, scan their brains, talk to their children. We record videos of them talking to their wives about their biggest concerns. When, about 10 years ago, we finally asked their wives if they would join as survey participants, many women said, "Well, it's high time!"
So what have we learned? What are the lessons from the tens of thousands of pages of information we have gathered about the lives of these people? The lessons are not about wealth or glory, or more and more hard work. The most obvious message of this 75 year study is this: Good relationships make us happier and healthier! Point.
We learned three important lessons about relationships. The first is that social networking is really a good thing for us, and that loneliness is killing. It turns out that people who are better socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, they are healthier physically and live longer than people with a weaker relationship. And the feeling of loneliness is toxic. People who are more isolated than others think they are not very happy, their health deteriorates earlier, in the middle of their lives, their brain functions deteriorate faster and they live on shorter than people who are not alone. The sad fact is that at any one time, more than one in five Americans will identify as single. We know that a person can be lonely and in the crowd, they can be lonely and in their marriage, so the second important lesson we learned is that it doesn't matter how many friends you have and whether a person is seriously connected, the quality of your loved ones is important relationships. It turns out that life in conflict is really bad for our health. For example, marriages with many conflicts, without much affection, affect our health very badly, probably worse than divorce. And to live in good, warm relationships is protective.
After tracing our men all the way back to their 80 years, we wanted to look back in the middle of their lives and see if we could predict who would turn into a happy, healthy eighty-year-old and who wouldn't. And gathering everything we knew about them at 50 years, not their middle-aged cholesterol levels predicted how they would get old, but the satisfaction of their relationships. The most satisfied with their relationship people of 50 years were the healthiest of 80 years. Good, close relationships seem to protect us from some of the unpleasant sides of aging. The men and women with the happiest partnerships have reported to us, as early as 80 years ago, that in the days when they had more physical pain, their happy mood persisted. But for people with unhappy relationships in the days when they reported more physical pain, it was heightened by emotional pain.
And the third important lesson we learned about relationships and health is that good relationships not only protect our bodies, they also protect our brains. It turns out that being permanently engaged to another person when you are over 80 years is a precaution that people in relationships where they really feel they can rely on a partner when needed, have a clearer memory, long time. And the people in relationships where they feel they can't actually rely on the partner are the people whose memory is weakening earlier. Good relationships do not need to be smooth all the time. Some of our 80-year-old couples may argue constantly, but once they feel they can truly rely on the other when it becomes difficult, these disputes do not affect their memory.
The message that good, close relationships are good for our health and well-being is wisdom as old as the world. Why is it so difficult to comprehend and so easy to ignore? Well, we're human!
We would prefer a quick cure, something we can take that will make our lives good and keep it that way. Relationships are confusing, they are complicated and the hard work of taking care of family and friends is not sexy or glamorous. Plus, it lasts a lifetime, never ends. The people in our 75 survey who became the happiest retirees were those who were actively working to make their colleagues new friends. Just like those born around the beginning of the century in that new study, many of our men, when they started out as young men, truly believed that fame, fortune, and great achievement were what they needed to strive for to have a good life. But over and over again during those 75 years, our research has shown that people who rely on relationships - with family, friends, community - are the best people to deal with.
What about you? Let's say you're 25 years old, or 40, or 60. What would care for your relationship look like?
The possibilities are practically endless. It can be something as simple as changing your screen time, making time for friends, or reviving a stagnant relationship by doing something new together - long walks, meeting nights, or looking for a family member you are not with have been talking for years because the common family feuds do terrible harm to people who cannot forgive.
I would like to end with Mark Twain's words. More than a century ago, he remembered his life and wrote this: “Life is so short that there is no time for quarrels, apologies, envy, the search for responsibility. There is only time for love and no more than a moment, so to speak, for the rest! "
A good life is built with good relationships!