What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness

The psychiatrist Robert Waldinger asks this question in his TED Talk based on a 75-year-old study on adult development


In this study, 724 lives of men were tracked over a couple of decades by asking them about their work, home lives and health. About 60 men are alive and still participate in the study. Their children are now also a part of the study. So to summarise it up:

What makes us happy?

The study found that neither wealth nor fame makes us happy.
It turns out that the key to a happier and healthier life is GOOD RELATIONSHIPS!

What did researchers find out?

  • Loneliness kills! Social connections with family, friends and community make us live healthier and longer life. The quality of our close relationship mattered most and not the quantity.
    You might have also experienced an enjoyable conversation with a person or a friend and a good feeling about it afterwards. In my experience, it is like a flow, where you feel a deep connection with somebody else, sharing ideas and enjoying the company of each other. There is a balance of listening and talking, a non-judgemental attitude and even humour, where the people get a laugh about themselves and accept things they can’t change. The conversation is based on positivity rather than focusing on things that could be better. And if someone or something bothers us, it’s about being mindful and boosting self-awareness rather than judging and moaning only.
  • Good and close relationships work like a shield against physical complaints while ageing. It turns out that the more content you are, the less you are affected by physical pain or the consequences of ageing. Satisfying relationships in middle age were directly linked to better mental and physical well-being 30 years later.
    I also experienced many times that challenges encountered in a safe and healthy environment are easier to tackle than in a less supportive climate.
  • Good relationships protect our brains!
    A securely attached relationship to another person seems to protect our memory in the long run. In case people couldn’t count on their partner, they had an earlier memory decline.

How can we strengthen our relationships?

First of all, the possibilities are practically endless. There are so many ways to find fulfilment in relationships.
But in my opinion, the most crucial part is self-awareness. Many issues can mislead us from healthy relationships, like certain personality traits and psychological disorders like depression or social anxiety. Sometimes it can be a lack of social skills, which makes it challenging to socialise. A deficient foundation for attachment which can be a consequence of inconsistent care during childhood, can, but not necessarily, lead to insecure attachments in adulthood. Suppose you come to know your attachment style. In that case, you can uncover ways to defend yourself from getting close and emotionally connected and work toward forming a “secure attachment.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201307/how-your-attachment-style-impacts-your-relationship)

How can I strengthen my relationships with family, friends and community?

There are many ways to work on if you want to improve your relationship with your husband/wife, children, friends, neighbours etc.

I recommend starting with one thing at a time and making it a habit to make it easier. It’s entirely up to you what you think you can or should improve to experience healthier relationships.

Self-acceptance is the first step

Youngsters and adults often struggle to accept themselves, their strengths, weaknesses, bodies, cultural or social backgrounds etc. It can limit us from having a positive relationship with ourselves and makes it difficult to bond with family members, peers and other people. We must learn to be kind to ourselves to get into close relationships with others. It is also an essential part of MINDFULNESS practice.

For example, at almost 40, I started to slow down and be more mindful of anything I did. I have been busy for the last two decades focusing on my family, education and work that most of the time, I felt unsatisfied. I thought that this would make me happier. At the same time, I was stressed out and could not take enough care of my relationships. I also practised less self-care since I thought there was no time for it.


Practising MINDFULNESS for a while helped me to be more content in anything I do. The more I practice the different areas of mindfulness, the more it helps strengthen my relationship with family, friends and the community. You can read more about mindfulness in my upcoming article.

Ask yourself!

  • What hinders me from having fulfilling relationships?
  • When do I enjoy socialising most?
  • What kind of impact does social media have concerning real relationships?
  • What could be the first steps to strengthen my bond with family and friends?

What will I get?

You will get what you expect!

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Published on 2018/12/07

Posted in: Good life, Happiness,