Healthy relationships are key to leading a satisfying life and achieving long-term happiness. That’s the insight from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the largest, longest running study of adult development in history. Since 1938, researchers have been surveying participants every two years on the quality of their marriages, job satisfaction and social activities. Participating subjects’ physical health was tracked every five years.
In his popular TED Talk, Robert Waldinger, psychiatrist and fourth director overseeing the Harvard study, says the long-running study has consistently shown people who fare best in terms of overall health, longevity and happiness are those who have solid relationships with family, friends and community. Additionally, those with consistently high-conflict relationships actually fare worse in each category than those with fewer but more stable relationships.
With that in mind, here are a few simple ideas for building healthier, long-lasting relationships:
Trade FaceTime for face time. Technology has promised to connect us, and it does in many ways, but it can also hinder intimacy. Setting a few limits on tech, so you can truly connect with loved ones, is important.
Ask yourself one question. Whenever you have an important decision to make, ask yourself, “Is this good for my relationships?” For example, a better job may be financially good for you and your family, but it could take a heavy toll on your time, putting your relationships in the back seat. Consider this question carefully to help you clarify even the most difficult of decisions.
Friends and family in need. It’s important to communicate with loved ones who are elderly, in poor health or those you haven’t spoken with in a long time. You don’t have to give advice or do anything to “fix” situations. Showing up says enough. If physical distance is an issue, try calling rather than texting, emailing or using social media. Your voice can convey much more than an electronic communication.
Like a good neighbor. Whether you volunteer for a school or non-profit, mentor someone, or regularly attend a place of worship or other civic organization. Community organizations can be an important relationship source and help you develop bonds that fulfill you, while serving others.
Investing in your best “future self” means spending time where it will benefit you the most. And today, even science says our relationships pay the longest lasting dividends.
Sources: Business Insider, TED, Reader’s Digest