From Harvard Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, edited by Andrew John Harrison.
Ask most young people what they want from life and they will tell you money and fame. Landmark 75-year study of what actually matters reveals lessons that aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get is this:
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
Harvard’s Grant & Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of 268 male graduates from Harvard, as well as 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014. Multiple generations of researchers analyzed brain scans, blood samples, self-reported surveys and interactions of these men to compile their findings.
The conclusions are simple. Close relationships can make or break a person’s well-being, according to Robert Waldinger, Harvard professor of psychology and director of the center behind the study.
The study reveals the following lessons:
- Social connections are really good for us. Loneliness kills. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, healthier, and live longer than people who are less well connected. The experience of loneliness is toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.
- It’s the quality of your close relationships that matter. You can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship.
- Living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.
- Good relationships protect our bodies and brains. Being in a securely attached relationship in your 80s is protective. The people who are in relationships where they feel they can count on the other person in times of need, memories stay sharper longer vs those who cannot, experience earlier memory decline.
The bottom line is that good, close relationships are good for our health and wellbeing.
Why is this so hard to get and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that’ll make our lives good and keep them that way. Relationships are messy and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends.
But hey, it is worth it!
Ask most people if the world has become more or less violent and they will say MORE!
Watching the mainstream news and listening to politicians during an election cycle, one would conclude that the world is going to hell and everything is getting worse and worse.
Conspiracy theorists, fundamental religious zealots, and people who hate change lament declining morals, standards, and values. It can appear as though we are in the middle of a renaissance of deceit, dishonesty, and violence.
In reality, these sentiments may be based on people’s local experiences, however, when you look at the world as a whole, violence is declining, there is more accountability for big businesses, and transparency for politicians than at any other time in HISTORY!
It is true when everything is covered up and people are in denial of how things actually are, there is the appearance of order, safety, and security. Bubbling just under the surface is an entirely different reality. Once this reality is exposed, it can look like everything is going backward, when in fact things are getting better because the hidden is no longer out of view and people can see it. Once you can see it, you can change it.
Check out this fantastic presentation by Harvard professor Steven Pinker from 2007. Steven lays out the case for how we may be living in the safest period in history!
Hats off to the author and creators of this video. They have vividly and beautifully expressed a series of concepts that make it easy to understand and digest. Thank you!
Let’s create more MAGIC together!