Here is a little post that may help you to make 2016 a truly valuable year.
It has been reported in studies that 80% of millennials believe that becoming rich will make them happy in life. Indeed 50% of today’s youth believe that becoming famous is their ticket to happiness. We have already discussed these topics earlier and know that these beliefs are largely false. Without a clear idea of what makes us happy in the long run, it is no wonder that so many people are frustrated. They have the wrong plan. Luckily there is plenty of research to guide us towards a better path; the path of contentment.
I have left the following to the last chapter, as the next few paragraphs are probably the most important in this entire book. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been running for over 75 years. Quite possibly this is the longest study of its kind in the world. All those years ago the first researchers decided to study the lives of over 700 young men to find out what determining factors contributed to a happy and healthy life. As one set of researchers retired, another set took over the study. The subjects of the study came from two very different groups. One half were graduates of Harvard and the other half lived in the slums of Boston. The men were interviewed every year about their lives. Their health was studied in depth. Around 60 of the men are still alive and are now in their nineties. This study has left an unprecedented account of these men’s lives.
All the thousands of pages of information gathered has allowed the researchers to recognise common themes in those that led successful lives. The most important lesson for us all is that, those subjects who enjoyed the best relationships, were the happiest and healthiest. This applied equally to both groups. The researchers found three key benefits in developing strong relationships –
1. Health. Those men who had the strongest relationships lived long and healthy lives. Those in their eighties and beyond also stated that on the days they experienced aches and pains, their relationships allowed them to maintain a positive mood.
2. Happiness. The men that put the most effort into maintaining social connections kept a high and constant level of happiness. This was in spite of all the setbacks they inevitably experienced.
3. Brain function. Those who enjoyed the deepest family and social relationships also maintained their cognitive powers the longest. They kept their minds and their memories.
The flip side of this is that loneliness kills. The men who reported feeling the most isolated suffered in these key areas. They led shorter lives. There physical and mental health deteriorated much earlier. We know that generations were happier than we are today. This is because we tend to live less inter-connected lives. Indeed one in five adults claims to be lonely. The question still remains then why do we pursue wealth, and more latterly fame, as if they were the solutions to all our problems? We live in a society raised increasingly on instant gratification and fixes. Getting more money and recognition seems like a quick fix. In contrast relationships can be complicated, a little messy and confusing. They require our constant attention. They involve two of our most dreaded words: hard work.
Sorry that this was a little long but this may help in setting yourself a really worthwhile goal for 2016.
Keep on caring.