I hope everyone had a truly remarkable and enjoyable Christmas season. After all isn’t this supposed to be the season of Peace and Love and Joy? This is the time of the year that is supposed to see new beginnings blossom along with forgiveness of past transgressions. This is the time of gift giving and going above and beyond. But why do we wait for one season of the year to show our kindness and humanity?
Staying with this theme I decided to share a secret so special that many spend their fortunes to get a glimpse of it. Some get so close to it (at least they believe it is what they seek) only to see it vanish like smoke passing through their fingers. To be honest I came by this “secret” completely by accident but I certainly believe that it is true and the science bears it out. The truth of this is time tested. I will share it with you in a minute or two. So many stand in their own way of finding happiness. Many will only accept that the solution to find something as wonderful as this must be more complicated and difficult to realise. Some would ask, “If it’s that simple why isn’t everyone doing that?” Good question.
We have been told that the secret to happiness or being happy comes from hard work or earning vast fortunes or becoming important, powerful, envied, held in awe, being free and independent. Not true. There are two things that money will not and can not buy. Those are class and happiness. It IS true that money can buy us comfort and power but not happiness–at least not true happiness. Not the kind of happiness that can actually extend the length and quality of our lives.
We have lost or perhaps misplaced the true meaning of the word HAPPINESS. Scientists, of course, have tried to explain it as a chemical reaction in our brains. Others have suggested that it is a state that is void of sadness. I believe that we will know it when we feel it. Who cares if we can explain it as long as we believe we have found it. The closest I can come to explaining it is to say that it will be a state of being that I have never felt before. That’s about as good as it gets.
The source of the “secret” is the Harvard Grant Study. This was a study that began in 1938 and continues to this day. It is one of the longest running longitudinal studies of its kind. The study began with 268 males. Females were not included in the study because Harvard, at that time, was an all male institution. It would be truly fascinating to do a similar study of females and compare the outcomes. Perhaps someone will take it on. Out of the original 268 men that were studied there are still 19 men living. They are presently in their 90’s. I have included a paragraph or two below which comment on some of the findings of the study and there is also a link that will connect you to the actual article outlining the study in more detail:
“Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.”
“When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,” said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”
“The researchers also found that marital satisfaction has a protective effect on people’s mental health. Part of a study found that people who had happy marriages in their 80s reported that their moods didn’t suffer even on the days when they had more physical pain. Those who had unhappy marriages felt both more emotional and physical pain.”
“Those who kept warm relationships got to live longer and happier, said Waldinger, and the loners often died earlier. “Loneliness kills,” he said. “It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
It is important to recognise that the reference to “relationships” is not limited to marital or intimate relationships only. It includes those relationships we may have with friends and community as well.
This may be one of the most important documents you will ever read on the net or anywhere else. Please don’t write it off as some silly science of some kind. This is an opportunity to see life for all the good it has to offer and to understand more about the pursuit of true happiness in our lives. This article and study could be the most important “gift” that you will ever receive–Merry Christmas. A bit late but no less important.
Anyways, that’s how I see things. All the best, Jim
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(Disclaimer: Photo resources and quotes are used for education, research and/or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of either examples.)