Your Relationships Are Key
September 28, 2020
Imagine you had a “Back to the future” type of car that allows you to go into your future to see if the life choices you make today will help you lead a fulfilled and happy life in the future. How cool would that be?
Time travel may not be possible in our lifetime.
What choices can we make today to be happy in the future is answered in a powerful TED Talk by Robert Waldinger- What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.
In this Ted Talk, Robert Waldinger, who is the current Program Director of the longest-running research Harvard Study of Adult Development, shares conclusions about what keeps people happy and healthy as they go through life.
This study started in the year 1938 and continues to date. Researchers from Harvard recruited a Target group of 724 teenagers broken down into two cohorts. The first cohort comprised students of Harvard College, while the Second Cohort included boys picked up from the poorest and most disadvantaged Boston communities.
The study tracked these kids year after year in terms of their career, family lives, mental health, general well-being, and a few other parameters, independent of their life experiences. Today, about 17 of these original 724 are still alive and well into their nineties.
With a front-row seat on these men’s lives for eight decades, researchers have been able to track the cause of the past circumstances and choices and the effect on their future.
Through the years, many of them did very well climbing the social ladder going from the bottom to the top. One of the research subjects was interestingly John F Kennedy.
Equally, many of the research subjects also went the other way, getting sucked into drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health issues.
In the Ted Talk, Robert Waldinger shares the three most valuable insights coming from this research. And, they are not about Wealth, Fame, Success.
Good Relationships Keep Us Happier and Healthier
This study reveals that social connections are essential for our well being. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and the community are happier, physically healthier. They live longer than those who are less well connected.
Loneliness is toxic. When people find themselves isolated without any relationships to lean on, they are less happy. Their health declines earlier through their midlife, and they live shorter lives.
The Quality Of The Connection Matters
The researchers isolated all the Octogenarians leading happy, healthy, fulfilled lives and looked back at their Midlife lifestyle choices. They wanted to understand if there was a common thread as to why they were more fulfilled and lived longer than the others.
When they evaluated all the known factors at the age of fifty for all these people, it was not their fitness, work, or wealth that predicted how healthy, happy, and fulfilled they would be in the future.
What mattered more was how satisfied these people were in their relationships in their mid-life. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age fifty were the healthiest at age eighty.
The number of relationships mattered less compared to the quality of those relationships.
Good Relationships Keep Us Mentally Agile
Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains. When people are in relationships where they can count on the other person in times of need, the mental faculties of those subjects in the research stayed sharper much into their old age. People surrounded by shallow relationships, on the other hand, mentally aged faster and earlier.
Another interesting fact that came out was that the relationships did not have to be smooth. There ware quite a few instances where the partners would bicker with each other all the time. As long as they felt they could count on the other in times of stress, they were healthy.
So the big takeaway is this- Wealth, Fame doesn’t matter beyond a point. Our life is all about the real relationships and connections we experience in our lifetime. The better relationships we share, the more fulfilled and satisfied we will be as we age.