Be happy. So what exactly?
What makes us happy, is there a recipe for achieving such a much desired state? Today, we share an amazing article with you. Robert Waldinger, a Harvard Medical School professor, talks about the 75-year-long experiment.
What makes us feel healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were to invest in the best version of yourself in the future, what would you put your time and energy into? Recently, a survey was conducted among members of the so-called "Millennium Generation", asking what their most important goals in life were, more than 80 percent said that the most important thing for them is money. Fifty percent of them also felt that fame was another important goal.
We are constantly told that we need to focus on work, to give more to achieve more. We get the impression that these are goals we must pursue in order to have a good life. It seems impossible to look at all the decisions made and how they influenced our lives. Most of what we know about life comes from asking people questions about the past, and as you know, the mind interprets it differently. We forget most of what has happened in our lives, and sometimes our memory lets our imagination run wild.
What if we could watch someone's life go on over the years? What if we could study them from adolescence to old age and see what really makes people healthy and happy?
We did it. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is perhaps the longest study of adult human life ever done. For 75 years, we have followed the fate of 724 men, year after year asking them about work and family - obviously not knowing how their lives would turn out.
Studies like this are extremely rare. Almost all similar projects ended within the first 10 years because too many people were dropping out of them, funding was running out, researchers started to do something else or they were dying, and there was no one to replace them. However, this project survived thanks to the luck and persistence of several generations of researchers. About 60 of the 724 participants are still alive, most of them over 90 years old. And now we're starting to study over 2,000 of these people's children. I am already the fourth leader of this research.
From 1938, we followed the fate of two groups. The first was made up of men studying in their sophomore year at Harvard University. They all graduated during the Second World War and most of them went to serve in the army. The second group were boys from the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, specially selected from unsuccessful families. Most of them lived in tenement houses, many without running water.
When we started this project, we talked to each of these teenagers. We examined them for health. We visited their homes and talked to their parents. Over time, these boys grew up with men whose lives had gone differently. They became factory workers, lawyers, bricklayers, doctors, one of them became the president of the United States. Some became alcoholic. A few developed schizophrenia. Some climbed the career ladder to the top, others waited in the opposite direction.
The initiators of this research, in their wildest expectations, did not think that 75 years later I would be standing here in front of you and said that this research is still being continued. Every two years our patient and dedicated people call these men and ask if they can question them again about matters related to their lives.
Many who grew up in poverty ask, “Why do you keep wanting to study me? My life is not very interesting. " Those after Harvard never ask.
To get the best picture of their lives, we don't send them surveys. We talk to them in their homes. We get test results from their doctors. We draw their blood, scan their brains, and talk to their children. We record their conversations with their wives about their greatest worries. When we finally asked their wives some 10 years ago if they would join this research, many of them answered, "It's about time."
So what did we find out? What lessons can be learned from the tens of thousands of pages of information we have gathered about their lives? Well, these lessons are not about wealth, fame, or getting harder and harder. The simplest message that emerges from these 75 years of research is:
Good relationships with other people keep us healthy and happy. Dot.
We learned three very important things about relationships with other people. The first says that contact with others is very useful and loneliness is killing. It turns out that people who are more attached to family, friends or communities are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who are not. Loneliness can be toxic. People who are more isolated from others than they would like are less happy, they decline faster, their minds work worse, and they live shorter lives than those who are not lonely. The sad thing is that more than one-fifth of Americans are now described as single.
And we know that you can be lonely in a crowd, just as you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second important lesson we have learned is that it is not only the number of your friends or fidelity in a relationship that matters, but above all the quality of your loved ones relationship with others. Living in the shadow of a conflict is very bad for our health. For example, marriages where quarrels often occur turn out to be very bad for health, worse than divorce. On the other hand, living in harmony and in friendly relationships protects us.
After we traced our men to the point of their eighty years of age, we decided to look at them in middle age and see if we could predict who would be a happy, healthy eighty-year-old and who would not. And when we analyzed all the data collected on them up to the age of 50, it turned out that their cholesterol levels will not affect how they age. This is how satisfied they are with their relationships. Those who were most satisfied with them at age 50 were also healthiest at age 80. Good relationships can also prevent problems related to aging. Our happiest couple in their eighties admitted that when they felt more physical pain, they were still in a cheerful mood. In contrast, people in unhappy relationships during the days of increased physical pain felt it even more because of the emotional pain.
And the third lesson we learned about relationships and our health was that successful relationships not only protect our bodies but also our minds. It has been found that the feeling of security in a relationship in their 80s is protective if people know they can always count on their other half, their memories and memories are clearer for longer periods of time. Conversely, those who feel they can only count on themselves experience a faster loss of memory. Plus, these successful relationships don't have to be perfect all the time. Some of our eighty-year-old couples may have argued with each other day and night, but as long as they felt that they could rely on the other for hard times, their memories were not affected by these arguments.
This message that successful relationships are good for our health and well-being is knowledge as old as the world. Why is this so hard to achieve and so easy to ignore? Well, we are human. We like quick fixes, something that will make life better and stay that way. Relationships are difficult and complicated, turning to family and friends is hard work, not so glamorous and sexy. In addition, it lasts a lifetime. It never ends. Of the people we surveyed, the happiest retired people were those who were able to find new friends after losing those from their jobs. Many, like those of the Millennial generation in recent studies, started out as young people believing that they needed wealth, fame and great achievement to be happy in their lives. But it's been 75 years during which our research has shown that those who turned to relationships, family, friends or communities have gone the furthest.
What about you? Let's say you are 25 years old, maybe even 40, maybe even 60. How is this kind of relationship with others supposed to look like?
The possibilities are endless. It could be getting up in front of the computer and spending time with other people, or reviving a somewhat ossified relationship by doing something together, such as going for a walk, or reconnecting with a family member you haven't spoken to for years because family fights are very bad. an impact on those who hold a grudge for a long time.
I would like to end with a quote from Mark Twain. Over 100 years ago, looking at his life, he wrote: “There is no time - life is so short - for arguments, apologies, envy, explanations. There is only time to love, and it is right now, so to speak. "
A good life is based on good relationships.