Living a fulfilling life is not something that just happens. I have learnt over the years that the best things in life often take time and a bit of hard work.
I often jokingly reminisce of how life was much simpler ‘back in the day’. It’s a running joke I have with my best mate. I talk about a time when we didn’t have internet, when people were friendly and relationships were the only thing that mattered.
I’m only 36 years old and I wasn’t even born in these times I reminisce about, therein lies the joke.
As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off the mark. A team of psychologists from Harvard University conducted a study, originally examining a group of over 700 men. This Tedx Talk with Dr Robert Waldinger, the current director of the study, explains what it is all about. Halfway through the video, Dr. Waldinger reveals,
“The clearest message that we get from this 75 year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Dr. Waldinger breaks down that statement in three key lessons that he took away from the study.
Social connections are really good for us
Remember the movie Castaway where Tom Hanks names a volleyball Wilson as his BFF? What that iconic scene taps into is the innate human need for connectivity. As humans, we are hardwired to build connections with other humans to survive.
The rise and rise of social media is a new generations way of fulfilling that basic human need. But having a vast number of likes, followers or friends, may not be enough. The relationships we form need to be about strong, mutual connections. Which leads to the next lesson from the study.
Quality over quantity
When I was younger I had many different social circles, friends, acquaintances and lots of people in my life. Many of those relationships were quite shallow. I knew a lot of people but I didn’t know much about any of them. I found that as I got older, my social circle got smaller, but the relationships were much more meaningful.
Having deeper connections with people allows for a greater sense of vulnerability and honesty. It allows for more time with the people that matter and nourish your soul. It’s those deeper connections, which led to a happier existence as reported by participants who scored highly in happiness questionnaires. Those who claim to be happier had richer, deeper social relationships than those who scored lower. This also includes having a deep and loving relationship with yourself. A relationship many tend to neglect.
Good for the body and good for the brain
The benefits of these relationships didn’t only lead to happier, more fulfilled lives; it also reaped rewards for improved mental and physical health. It boosts your immune system, makes you live longer and can even reduce pain.
So what does this all mean? If you are blessed enough to have wonderful connections with people you love, be sure to nurture them and cultivate those relationships. Call your friends, send a note, go out on a date, play with your kids and give gratitude to those who bring you joy and above all else, be kind to yourself.