As the new year begins, many people will set intentions to achieve goals relating to their physical health or financial security. For example, in a recent survey, 80% of young adults reported that getting rich was a major life goal; over 50% said that being famous was an important goal. These young people, of course, are reflecting the values that they see emphasized in our culture. Where should we put our effort? Do we have any information about what goals will really provide life satisfaction?
We actually do have such data. Dr. Robert Waldinger is the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest study on happiness that has ever been conducted. This study followed a group of men over a 75-year period, asking them about all aspects of their lives and collecting data about their physical health. What this study has shown is that being rich or famous does not make people happy or satisfied in their lives; instead, it is relationships with others that matter. Having good relationships with others keeps us happier and healthier. It isn’t the number of friends we have, however, or whether we are in a long-term committed relationship that matters, but the quality of our close relationships. For example, high conflict marriages are bad for our health, while people having warm and supportive relationships with their spouses live longer and are happier.
Given these findings, one of your goals for 2016 might be to foster and nurture your social relationships. To learn more about this study, click here and search Dr. Robert Waldinger.