Findings from one of the longest running studies on happiness.

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Today I took some time to listen to the TED talk by Robert Waldinger on what makes a good life. He pulls his three main lessons from one of the longest running studies on happiness that was started back at Harvard over 75 years ago. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 268 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out. Robert is the fourth director of this research study.

Ultimately what they have learned to date is that the good life is built with good relationships. Good relationships keep us happier and healthier and are good for our wealth and wellbeing. The people who fared the best with both health and happiness were those who leaned into relationships with family, friends and their community. Waldinger talks about how social connections are good for us but that loneliness kills—loneliness is truly toxic to our bodies and our brains. He also mentioned that at any given time 1 in 5 Americans will report that they are lonely. This statistic broke my heart.

The three lessons that he specifically talks about in his talk are these:

1. Social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills.

2. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old.

3. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.

He closed with a great quote:

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.” —Mark Twain. 

Watch the entire TED talk here.

Another great follow up to the study here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/thanks-mom/309287/