Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical School and co-author of new book ‘The Good Life’ revealed that social interactions may be the key to leading a happy life.
The book used the question as to how a person would prefer to spend a pleasant train ride: whether commuting solo and keeping to oneself versus striking up a conversation with a stranger.
In a study from the University of Chicago, people who decided to strike up conversations rated their commuting as more pleasant than normal.
Waldinger and his co-author Marc Schulz wrote how people are particularly bad at forecasting the benefits of relationships. “A big part of this is the obvious fact that relationships can be messy and unpredictable. This messiness is some of what prompts many of us to prefer being alone.”
A study beginning in 1938 followed the live of 724 Harvard students and low-income boys from Boston in the world’s longest scientific study of happiness to date.
The study expanded to consist of 2,000 people. The researchers gathered health records every five years, meeting them in person every 15 years. One thing became undeniable: strong relationships were mot accurately predicting people’s happiness.
People revealed how they overcame adversity, whether it be loss or even illness, through their connections. As people aged, they regretted the little time spent with family and how trivial they found success and money to be.
The researchers have outlined how people can cultivate such strong relationships:
- Work on social fitness: Schedule time with people who you want in your life and put oneself out there to meet new people.
- Use technology to your advantage: Work on becoming an active consumer instead of a passive one: check in when necessary and don’t consume social media mindlessly.
- Cultivate the skills of attention: giving someone attention seems simple, but it can be easily ignored. A person receiving undivided attention would feel valued and loved.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: accepting one’s vulnerability takes a lot, but it is crucial to deepen one’s relationship. The fear associated with vulnerability is understandable, but relationships build a bedrock of wellbeing and a safety net that people cannot afford to lose.