What makes a person truly happy? Her two experts behind the world’s longest-running study of human well-being provide answers in a new book.
The Harvard Study on Adult Development is the most intensive adult development study ever, tracking the lives and well-being of 724 Boston men over an 80-year period beginning in 1938, studying the children of the original participants. (This study began with students at Harvard University, when the university was all-male. From Boston he enrolled 456 young men, after which he added more than 1,000 male and female children of the original participants.) bottom.)
A new book, The Good Life, by study leaders Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, is based on an analysis of decades of interviews with participants.
A Zen monk, Waldinger is also behind a TED Talk on Happiness that was viewed more than 40 million times in 2015.
“Success in life is often measured by titles, salaries, and performance reviews,” the authors write. “People who manage to tick some or all of the boxes they want often find themselves on the other side as they were before.”
Happiness, the authors say, is not a goal to be reached, but a process that results from good connections with other people. “One thing continues to demonstrate its pervasive and enduring importance,” they wrote. “good relationship.”
Read on to learn more about their findings.
(Note: Study participant names have been changed to protect privacy.)
it’s never too late to be happy
Is it too late for those who have had hard lives to find new ways? It could give hope to anyone stuck in a difficult situation.
Watchmaker Andrew Deering spent most of his life trapped in an unhappy marriage. “His wife was very critical of Andrew, and she hated most social situations,” the author writes.”She didn’t want to see anyone and he I didn’t want to see you either.”
Dear 45 year old suicide attempt.
But at 68, he separated from his wife, started attending a local health club, and made more friends than ever before. He started socializing daily and raised his life satisfaction score to 7, the highest possible.
The authors say that no matter how “adrift” people feel, how far away they are from relationships, “it’s never too late.”
who will support you
How much time do you really spend interacting with people? Probably less than you think. A 2018 study found that the average American spends 11 hours of her day interacting with media, from television to radio to smartphones. This equates to her 18-year life span from age 40 to her 80. That’s just 87 coffee hours in a week.
One study participant emphasizes the importance of staying in touch. Sterling Ainsley felt hopeful when he retired in 1986 at the age of 63, but gradually lost touch with his children and friends, and was often alone, separated from his wife. rice field.
Researchers say Stirling’s experience is a common one. They recommend writing down who your support network is and who they provide support to.
“We may not understand what is keeping us away from people,” the author writes. “It helps to take some time to look in the mirror.”
Why Intimacy Matters
Two stories from this study show how prioritizing people and connections over wealth can lead to happiness.
Study participant John Marsden graduated top of his class and landed a law firm with a longtime dream of a public service job.
Dreaming of becoming a writer and journalist, Leo DeMarco returned home to care for his mother after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and found himself teaching high school, which he continued for 40 years. I was.
By 1975, John had earned $52,000 and Leo $18,000. But something was wrong with John. To his research question, “There are more pains in life than joys,” he replied, “It’s true.” Leo wrote “False”.
John’s career began with a desire to make other people’s lives better, but he became more focused on his accomplishments. Leo focused on relationships with other people, resisted promotions that would take him away from his students, and was considered one of the happiest men in the study.
Perhaps the author suggests the question: “Can money buy happiness?” “Perhaps the right question is, ‘What makes me happy?’ ”
Can “broken” people be healed?
In Hollywood movies, there are often moments when villains’ evil path choices are explained by traumatic events in their childhoods. Is not it?
Study participant Neil ‘Mac’ McCarthy’s mother became an alcoholic and he fled his family home amid violence and went to work at the age of 15. “Fight, drink, scream”
Neil served in the Korean War, took advantage of his veteran benefits to attend college, and met his wife, Gail, 11 days after graduating. In his later years, Neil curtailed his accounting duties and cared for Gail, who had Parkinson’s disease. She encouraged him to enjoy his hobby, bird watching, while calling “Find the right bird for me” when he left.
Despite a difficult start in life, the author writes that there is always hope.
Why Vulnerability Matters
The author writes that it’s important to be “open” and vulnerable to others.
Study participant Joseph Cissy celebrated his 59th wedding anniversary with wife Olivia before his death in 2007, and had a long and seemingly successful marriage.
“The biggest stress in our marriage is not conflict,” he told the study in an interview. I feel like
Even Joseph’s daughter said she didn’t really know Joseph, and Joseph, 72, said of his marriage, “We’re not bound together.”
Peggy McKean is a stark contrast to Joseph. She was a second-generation participant in this study. As a young woman, she went through a marriage to an “unbelievable” man, only for her to file for divorce months later. and reveal that he’s gay.
“I was completely ashamed,” she told the author. I have saddened many of my friends who supported our relationship.”
But Peggy has found a path to happiness in long-lasting relationships. The author writes:[Peggy’s] Relationships are what helped her. She has lived thanks to her full engagement with those close to her. As Zen Buddhists sometimes say, “Thousands of joys and ten thousand sorrows.”
how to take inventory of your life
One of the things survey participants said was that they had to answer surveys on a regular basis so they could reflect on their lives.
Looking back helped participants understand key moments
Wes Travers’ life was overshadowed the moment his heavy drinking and unfaithful father left the family. At the age of 15, he started working as a busboy and seemed lost.
Wes served in the Korean War, “discovered himself” in the military, and spent more than a decade training foreign troops abroad. A new house was able to be purchased and she was able to move out of the tenement they grew up in.
He was 44 and married late in life. However, the marriage was happy and long-lasting.
Researchers say taking a moment to reflect and understand can help. What were you thinking at the time, and perhaps the hardest question to face is what do you regret about who you were then?”