This post was originally published on Ted.com
What makes a good life? Many people around the world would say fame or money or “success.” But it turns out, a good life consists of much more than that.
The Secret to Happiness and Longevity
We all want to extend our happiness and longevity — so what keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?
If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. Happiness doesn’t just come from “leaning in” at work or pushing harder for achievements. It doesn’t come from hearing our names spoken about in an envious way or from seeing our faces plastered on billboards.
As Dr. Waldinger says in the video, “We’re giving the impression that these are the things we have to go after if we want a good life.” But that’s actually not true.
And he would know. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. It’s known as the Harvard Study. And it’s the longest study of adult life that has ever been done.
They’ve studied people who grew up in tenements, others who went to the best schools, and some who developed schizophrenia. They’ve watched as some climbed to the top of the social ladder from the bottom while others made that journey in reverse.
And they’ve been able to study and develop what the real picture of life looks like. It turns out that feeling connected to the people around you is the most important secret.
3 Lessons for Relationships That Improve Your Life
If you want to invest in your best life, here are 3 tips you should consider.
1. Social connection make us happier and healthier while loneliness kills
When you’re more socially connected to your family, your friends, your partner, and your community, you tend to be much happier and healthier. But the reverse is also true: the less connected you are and the more lonely you feel, the more vulnerable you are to an early death. And the unfortunate paradox in this day and age is that a lot of people are more connected before through technology, but less connected to real people in their lives.
2. It’s not just the number of your relationships, but the quality of them that counts
Just because social connections make us happier doesn’t mean you should get more of them or keep them all. Unhealthy marriages, for example, were actually almost more toxic than divorcing or staying single. It’s the quality, not the quantity, that counts.
3. Good relationships protect both our bodies and our brains
Secure, attached relationships — relationships where both partners feel they can count on each other in times of need — protect our mind and our body. That doesn’t mean that you have to find a relationship where there is never any bickering or conflicts. It means that your relationship can protect you as long as you feel you can truly turn to the person you’re in a partnership with when the going gets tough.
Take a look at the full talk to hear more about the study, as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.