People have been searching for the secret of happiness and long living for ages. Modern scientists say that about half of our happiness level depends on genes. Studies show that some individuals are just physically predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others.
But this does not mean one cannot boost the degree of happiness. In fact, Psychology professionals suggest that nearly 40% of positive emotions come from the choices we make. Let’s learn more about the longest-running study on happiness in history to find out what the right choices for happiness are and whether they are linked to our longevity.
The project, which lasted for almost 80 years, started during the Great Depression in 1938 at Harvard University and involved 724 male participants from various economic and social backgrounds (even President John F. Kennedy was a part of the original group). Over the decades, the researchers have collected information about participants’ health, relationships, career triumphs, and failures as well as mental and emotional wellness.
The findings of the study were surprising even for the researchers. They found out that our happiness level is strongly associated with our health. Happiness is a crucial factor that defines our mental and physical state and predicts a long life. In its turn, happiness depends on close relationships much more than other things like money, fame, or even genes.
So what should one do to boost their levels of happiness according to the study? First of all, stay connected. Close relationships with spouses, family members, friends, and people from other social circles promote mental and emotional stimulation, which is a strong mood booster. On the contrary, social isolation is a mood buster according to Dr. Waldinger. Building intimate and trustworthy relationships with others is vital for psychological well-being and long life. Another important thing for happiness and longevity is the ability to let go of negative people or minimize interactions with them.
George Vaillant admitted that when the project was launched, nobody cared about empathy or attachment as factors of longevity. But eventually, it turned out that they are a key to healthy aging.
Dr. Waldinger says that loneliness can literally kill. Its power is as strong as the power of smoking or alcoholism since the study revealed that loners often died earlier. On the contrary, good relationships protect our bodies and brains. And it doesn’t mean those good relationships have to be smooth all the time. Some couples can fight day in and day outs, but as long as they can rely on each other in hard times, those arguments don’t have a big negative impact on them.
All in all, if you want to live longer and happier, try to pay more attention to your relationship, as it’s scientifically proven that people with strong social support experience less mental deterioration as they age.