A crucial factor to human happiness (according to a 80-year Harvard study)

happy people talking about the Harvard happiness study

What’s the secret to happiness?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

Some people say it’s feeling highs like excitement and joy. Spiritual gurus say it’s about inner peace.

But an 80-year Harvard study on happiness draws a different conclusion.

This study followed the lives of two groups of men, and it now follows their baby boomer children to understand how childhood experiences affect subjective feelings of well-being and happiness.

So, what did the study found?

If you think that fame or money brings happiness, you’re wrong.

According to the lead professor of the study, Waldinger, it’s the connections in our lives that make life worth living:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”

In other words, an important aspect of a happy life is found through each other.

Watch the brilliant TED talk below to dig deeper into what the fascinating study found:


Relationships are the backbone of humanity. Sure, they have evolved and changed over the years, but the essence of why we turn to each other is still there. We build relationships for safety, security, love, acceptance, tribe, community, and contribution.

According to Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, says that there is no denying that relationships, in particular, “good” relationships, contribute to our lifelong happiness.

You might be inclined to think that money can make you happy, but the truth is that money is only fun if you have someone to spend it with or spend it on.

If all we needed in life was money, we might be hard-pressed to enjoy what life is all about.

The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships

In our social media driven world, it can be easy to fall for the illusion that having millions of followers on Youtube or Instagram means you have good relationships with a lot of people.

Some of the most liked and applauded internet celebrities will tell you that it is lonely at the top. So even fame and fortune doesn’t rival a great cup of coffee with an old friend.

This classic study found that when we have people we can rely on, we are more relaxed and more confident in our lives.

Sure, there are ups and downs in any relationship, but the knowledge that you can always turn to someone when you need them gives you a sense of community and belonging that you can’t get from money or Instagram.

The quality of the relationships you have seems to be the key to living a happier life.

So it’s not just about the numbers here. If you have only one friend in the world, but that friend would lay down in traffic for you, then that is all you will need in your life.

If it’s just you and your wife for the rest of your lives, and you are happy in your relationship, that is all you will need.

Of course, the more quality relationships you have, the more supported you may feel, but it is not necessary to be surrounded by a large number of people to have a lasting impact on your happiness and life.

Good relationships take hard work

It’s important not just to seek out and achieve good relationships though. You need to be willing to put the work in so that you can maintain those good relationships for years to come.

This is where most people lose the opportunity to be happy in the long term. They run from short-term pain looking for relief, when the real answer might have been to ride out the storm and see how things fair later in the relationship.

There are many studies done that say that couples and even companions are happy into their old age when they are empathic, understanding, and open to each other. Isn’t that what we all look for in a relationship?

So it turns out that being alone is not good for our health. It turns out, that the more people we surround ourselves with, the more likely we are to find these “good” relationships and find lasting happiness in life.

The next time you find yourself fighting with your partner, ask yourself if this fight is going to matter in 5 years.

If it’s not, let it go. There’s no need to throw away a relationship that could be meaningful if you just put a little work into it now.

Humans tend to run from things that are uncomfortable, but what if we all just took a moment to consider the lasting impacts of sticking around and supporting one another through the rough times.

How would life be different? According to this 80-year long study, it turns out, we might be happier in the end.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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