How to Be Happy

This Little Light“We have a great sense of togetherness.  It is our team spirit that has taken us to this World Cup.”  Robbie Keane    

In 2011, at The Monroe Institute in Virginia, I attended a talk by one of the best remote viewers in the world, Joe McMoneagle.  A retired U.S. Army NCO and Chief Warrant Officer, Joe shared some fascinating stories of seeing psychically around the world and even through time. His experience as a remote viewer began when he was in the army.  In selecting a group of clairvoyant spies, the military assessed their troupes and discovered that Joe had survived more battles than most soldiers, against astonishing odds.  He had demonstrated an uncanny ability to dodge bullets and survive countless artillery attacks, no matter what.  When someone asked Joe what was the most important lesson he’d learned throughout his fascinating life, I was surprized to hear him respond by saying that relationships matter most of all!

When a friend forwarded a TED Talks video presentation by Robert Waldinger called,”What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness,” I thought of Joe McMoneagle’s comment about relationships.

Waldinger described how millennials, people reaching adulthood around year 2000, were surveyed on their major life goals.  Eighty percent wanted to get rich, 50% wanted to become famous, and Robert added, “We’re constantly told to lean into work and push harder, and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life.”

Despite common beliefs that fame, fortune and hard work are important, the results of the 75 year old survey on adult life paint a different picture. Beginning in 1938, The Harvard Study of Adult Development surveyed 724 people, two groups made up of sophomores at Harvard College and young men from Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Every two years, from teenage years to old age, the two groups of men have been surveyed and responded to questionnaires.  They’ve been interviewed, submitted medical records and even had their brains scanned in order to determine what made them happy.

Robert sums up the study by saying that one conclusion surfaced, “Good relationships keep us happier and happier, period!”  The study taught 3 big lessons about relationships.

The first lesson is that social connections are beneficial and loneliness is toxic and kills.  People who are socially connected to friends, to family, and community are happier, physically healthier, and live longer. People who are more isolated than they want to be are less happy, their health declines earlier in mid-life, their brain function and memories decline earlier and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.  Statistically, one in five Americans reports being lonely.

The second lesson is that the quality of your close relationships matter.  Living in the midst of conflict, high conflict marriages without much affection, are bad for your health, even worse than divorce. In contrast, living in very good warm relationships is protective.

The study findings can predict that people who are the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 will be the healthiest at age 80.  Waldinger commented, “Good, close relationships seem to buffer us from the slings and arrows of getting old.”

The third lesson is that good relationships protect our brains.  To prevent memory decline, it’s important to be in a securely attached relationship to another person in your eighties. When you have someone you can count on, in times of need, your brain stays sharper.  Apparently those good relationships don’t have to be smooth, as long as they’re supportive.

Waldinger concludes by saying, “The people in the 75 year study who were happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked to replace workmates with new playmates.  Just like the millennials, many of our men when they started out as young adults really believed wealth, fame and achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life but over and over, these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family, with friends, with community.”

He suggested replacing screen time with people time, taking long walks or having date nights, and reaching out to the family members and friends you haven’t spoken to in years.

This Little Light

Happiness, Health, and Longevity result from good relationships.
Less conflict, the ability to count on, and spend quality time with
friends, family and community, will 
give you the best life possible!

Is it time to re-write some of your life goals?