What makes a good life?
An answer to this age-old question was attempted by a huge study at Harvard. It followed 724 men from their teenage years for a period of 75 years. Half the men were students at Harvard and the other half were disadvantaged inner city boys of Boston. They all went on to pursue various fields of work – brick-layers, teachers, solicitors and one even became the president of America. Every year, each one of them answered a paper questionnaire and was interviewed in person. Bloods tests and brain scans were performed on them and a large body of data was collected and analysed.
What did they find?
Loneliness is toxic. Loneliness kills.
The way to health and happiness is through good relationships.
Cholesterol level is not a predictor of good health but the quality of one’s social connections is.
Good relationships protect the brain too. People who have friends and relatives they can count on retain their memory for much longer than the ones that don’t.
So, while relationships can be messy, difficult and trying, they are worth leaning into, be it with family, friends or a community.
How can this be done in real terms?
- Replacing screen time with people time?
- Doing something new – going for a long walk, gardening, volunteering, watching a black and white film, trying a new recipe?
- Calling an old friend you’ve been thinking of for a while?
- Putting a grudge or mistrust aside and reaching out?
- You know best.
“There isn’t time for bickering, apologies, heart burnings, calling to account. There’s only time for loving. An instant for that.” – Mark Twain.
Good life = Good relationships.