What can we mean by “Winning at Happy & Well”? Quite simply, it means that as you go through life, do you want to be both healthy and happy? Presumably, yes! If we take a scientific look at how to achieve this, the conclusive answers how to do so are consistent across peer-reviewed studies. The simplicity of the answers may surprise you…
Looking at a well-known study by researchers at Harvard Medical School, whereby they followed 268 students (albeit all men, but from many walks of life) over decades until they died, they took measures of their physical and mental health and self-reported happiness levels. What they found was that those who fell into the group who were both physically and mentally healthy as well as happy had significant differences in several factors vs those who didn’t fare so well on health and happiness outcomes.
Love Conquers All
We won’t keep you in suspense. The single most important trait of Happy & Well elders is healthy relationships. The longtime study director, Harvard psychiatry professor George Vaillant, put it this way “There are two pillars of happiness….One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.” Moreover, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age fifty were the healthiest at age eighty.”1
The research points out that “love” and “healthy relationships” does not exclusively refer to romantic love/marriage. Meaningful intimate friendships that go deeper than work friendships or “transactional” allies are highly correlated with being Well & Happy. In fact, having your spouse as your only close friend is not enough.
The reference to “way of coping with life” covers a lot of the behaviors that promote health. Here you may find few surprises:
- Don’t smoke.
- Healthy body weight, avoiding yo-yo dieting and obesity.
- Physical activity. Walking counts. (See the post on how your smartphone can help assess your walking.)
- Healthy coping style – honest assessment of problems, confronting them directly while without unhealthy emotional reactions.
- Lifelong learning – lots of reading and curiosity. (Congratulations, in reading this blog, you’re on the right path!)
- Stable long-term relationships – having people you can count on.
1 Vaillant, George E (2012) “Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study”.
Overcoming Barriers to Building Friendships
The most common reason people tend to give for not cultivating stronger friendships is “I don’t have time.” The obvious answer to that is to make it a priority. Make it more important than that extra hour of work. Even if your work and commute should take 50 hours per week, after subtracting adequate time to sleep, eat and fulfill family obligations, that still leaves you with several hours in each week you could devote to healthy relationships. You just have to make it a priority. For your own health and theirs.
If your attitude is that of a workaholic, you should remind yourself of the tremendous cost of not changing your attitude. To yourself and loved ones.
If you genuinely feel you can’t perform your job in a reasonable time, perhaps it’s time to look for solutions to help you be more efficient. Here technology can help, with many programs designed to help you plan your day efficiently, getting the most important tasks done first. Or perhaps it’s worthwhile to look into a change of employment.
Another common barrier is not knowing where to start. Gone are the days we could rock up to a fellow classmate with a broad smile and ask “Wanna be my friend?” Or are they…? I’ve recently joined a group of women who responded to a very similar message. A woman posted a short message on our local neighborhood social platform (Next Door) that she was in her late 50s and finding it difficult to find and make new friends and did anyone feel the same and would they be interested in meeting up for coffee? Within a week she’d had over 50 positive responses. And a month after posting, she has formed a Whatsapp group where there are now 99 participants who drop in as and when to 3 weekly coffee or pub meet-ups. And in between the conversation keeps going with offers of encouragement and help (as well as discounted tickets to interesting events).
A tried and true method is finding a hobby you enjoy with meet-ups or classes in your local area. There you can learn new skills, practice what you enjoy and meet others with a similar interest. Being a less direct method, friendships may take time to build, but if you’re patient you’ll reap the rewards. If you have an unusual hobby, you may want to search for community groups on Facebook or other social platform.
Whichever way you choose, the first step is always the most important. Good luck.
If you’d like to keep receiving tips and updates on how technology you already own can help you cope with challenges and make your life happier and healthier, be sure to subscribe below. It’s free and we promise to keep your details just between us.