What Makes A Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study On Happiness

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By Mayukh Saha

Happiness is not guaranteed to any of us, as John Green says, the world is not a wish-granting factory. For centuries, we have all chased happiness in materialistic things, money, fame, wealth and what not. Even when you ask people today what they would need to be completely happy, the general answer is a lot of money or becoming famous and in a way, we find this answer acceptable but psychiatrist Robert J Waldinger disagrees, and vehemently so.

Waldinger graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College and then went on to become one of the directors of the longest running studies in adult happiness that has about 724 men as participants. The study has been going on since the last 75 years- yes, you read that right!

The participants of the study can be divided into two parts, the first one consisting of men who were included when they were graduating from Harvard during the 1930s and the second one is dominated by men from the same time but these were the most troubled kids from a poor area in Boston.

We all know that psychological studies and research barely ever go on for so long, but this study has remained alive, thanks to the generations of academicians who did not give up on it and also all the participants who made sure to be in contact with the researchers and extended their cooperation every time it was solicited.

Dr Waldinger then goes on to talk about what the study really centres around: happiness! What makes us happy? What makes our lives full and keeps our souls at peace?

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He says that the secret to long-lasting happiness lies in all the relationships we share with other people in our lives. Robert tells us that the study has been pretty clear in terms of this- the men who had stronger, more wholesome and harmonious relationships with other people have been happier than the men that did not. He says that the study has shown that the men who have a happy marital life are not just happier but healthier as well. Man is a social being so when his need to be validated, loved, and wanted is being fulfilled, he finds himself in a better place, both emotionally and physically.

The men in the study who have kept themselves isolated or have fallen victim to isolation have been observed to be forever dissatisfied and unhappy. They might be married but if it isn’t a very harmonious marriage, it has been a source of nothing but more emotional chaos.

Happiness is not an outcome of being with people all the time, it is the outcome of knowing that the people you are with and around will always have your back, no matter what!

We might think that money would solve all our problems but at the end of the day, all we really need is love and a few kind words from the people we love.

Keep socialising folks!

IMAGE CREDIT: Maxim Safronov

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