Yes, there is a key to happiness!  It’s having good relationships with friends, family and community. Is it that simple?  Apparently so.

The Good Life, by Waldinger and Shultz, published in January 2023, breaks it down.  They are the main researchers of the longest study of human life which began in 1938.  The study followed the lives of 2 groups of people: Harvard students (sophomores at the time); and low-income boys from Boston.  The study started with 724 teenagers, but over time spouses and children of the origin 724 joined the study with a total of over 2000 people.

Those who participated in the study were interviewed every 2 years in their living rooms, and every 5 years their medical records were reviewed and various blood tests and imaging were performed. The goal was to learn factors that contribute to health and longevity.  What they discovered was the “key to happiness”.

They found that the key to happiness is good relationships!  That’s right!  According to the authors, “Strong relationships most accurately predicted people’s happiness throughout their lives.  They are ‘intrinsic’ to everything we do and everything we are.” They also discovered that happier people are healthier!

3 big lessons about relationships:

  1. Social connections are really good for us and loneliness kills.
  2. It is not the number of friends you have and not whether or not you are in a committed relationship, but it is the quality of your close relationships that matter.
  3. Good relationships don’t only protect our bodies but they protect our brains

So how do we develop these relationships?  The term they coined is “social fitness”, meaning our social life needs exercise just like our bodies.  Yes, it takes effort to maintain long term relationships and create new ones.  One of the simplest ways is told replace screen time with people time.  It is also important to liven up stale relationships by doing something new together.  To create new relationships volunteer or go to a lecture to meet others who have shared interests with you.

They were able to show that happy people age more slowly and can delay, or prevent, the diseases of aging. Happy people have also exhibit less chronic inflammation and stress.

So, if you want to make one choice today that will make you healthier and happier it is to improve your connection with other people. Social fitness is a great investment in your health that will pay off for years to come.

Don’t believe me?  Read the book!