If you are having TED2016 withdrawal, fret not, we were too. So we decided to cover one of our all time favorite TED talks: The one on how to achieve lasting happiness.
There is a 75 year old Harvard study chronicling what makes people happy—yes we said 75 years—headed by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, who is the third person to take on this study. The first two directors passed on, and thankfully, their work continued.
According to this study and despite what most of the millennial’s think, achieving certain levels of fame, and bank accounts full of money, do not make us happy. In his TED Talk, Waldinger brings down the curtain by explaining the three crucial lessons he concluded from their research and that ultimately successful relationships are the be-all-end-all to achieving long-lasting happiness.
“But what if we could watch entire lives as they unfold through time? What if we could study people from the time that they were teenagers all the way into old age to see what really keeps people happy and healthy?” Asked Waldinger. Which is exactly what they did in the study. They followed and intimately studied 724 men, digging deep into their lives, day to day routines and even acquiring medical exams.
The men were chosen from two different socioeconomic backgrounds. One consisted of men coming from a wealthy background; students of Harvard College, while the second was made up of men who grew up with a troubled past from some of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.
After thousands of pages of research and data produced from the lives of these men—who started their involvement from their teenage years well into their 90’s—it was concluded that no matter how much money was in the bank, if they were unhappy in their relationships, they were unhappy in life. “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier,” says Waldinger. “Period!”
And he’s not talking about romantic relationships alone. It’s about being happy in our families, with our friends and gaining joy from the people around us. People may be surrounding you all your life, but the key is the closeness of these people and how they contribute to bringing joy in your life.
So what leads us to knowing that successful relationships are so vital for achieving happiness? Waldinger sums it up into three facts from their findings:
- Social connections – we need them.
- Quality of relationships – they need to be positive.
- Good relationships protect our bodies & brains – they will make us happy.
Waldinger reminds us that sometimes we can put all our eggs in the work or money basket because it seems easier. After all, relationships are hard work. We respond better to instant gratification, so money gives us an instant high with seemingly less work to do with our peers. But even though relationship are messy, take a lot of time and are incredibly difficult to maintain, the pay-off is exponentially greater when it comes to our happiness, so according to Waldinger, we shouldn’t shy away from putting our eggs in the relationship basket.
This study found that the men who had better relationships and continued to keep these relationships in rotation and evolving over time ended up being the happiest. The simple substitution of technology to actual quality time spent with people, can be the beginning of a road to sadness. Whether it was that crazy cousin of yours who you need to make amends with, or spicing things up with your significant other, look at the people around you and start to think about who you want to put first. Because if you are able to co-exist peacefully, you will ultimately be happier in life.
Waldinger ends with a great quote by Mark Twain from over a century ago: “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.”
Here’s to filling our ‘instant’s’ with love.