Happiness! We all want it! But how do we get it?
Over the past decade, numerous articles have been written on what makes people happy and how we achieve this desired emotional state. A Harvard study found an answer. But the study doesn’t go far enough.
You may not know that Harvard University has been running one of the longest studies on human happiness. The study began in 1938 making it also one of the most in-depth studies on human life. It’s called the Harvard Study of Adult Development. Only 19 people from the original study remain alive.
What the study found in terms of happiness may surprise you. It’s not your physical health, although that is certainly important and allows you to participate in life more fully when your health is good. It’s not money, fame, social class, IQ, or power. No, it’s our relationships… which in turn have a powerful impact on our health. Think of healthy relationships as your personal prescription for self-care.
Why relationships? Our brain is wired to be in relationships. God made us this way. Even God is 3 -in-1 and in relationship with Himself. Relationships are part of God’s creative design, and the brain thrives on healthy ones. Good relationships protect your brain as well as your body. And when we are in healthy relationships, we are protected from deteriorating mental and physical health. We flourish in community.
Loneliness, as we know, is a killer. It targets your physical health just like smoking and alcoholism. So, do a little self-analysis right now: In terms of aging, people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50, were the healthiest at age 80. Whether you have hit age 50, are beyond, or are on your way, attending to others will greatly improve your life.
Now, let’s talk marriage. Marital satisfaction is also protective in terms of your mental health. Happy marriages help aging in terms of mood and decreased physical pain. And women, who have secure attachments to their partners show less depression and have better memory functions. As long as you keep what marital researcher, John Gottman calls a “positive sentiment override” in your marriage, your memory will even be better. All this means is that a positive relationship with your partner benefits you in many ways-one is happiness!
So along with good physical care, it seems secure attachment is vital to our happiness. As it turns out, healthy relationships are a good predictor of healthy aging. However, the study did not account for a healthy relationship with God. But we know, those who keep their relationship strong with God, flourish no matter their circumstances. To this point, the Apostle Paul rejoiced in prison because of his deep relationship with Christ!
Jesus tells us to love God and love others–the greatest commandments involve relationships. Psalm 92:13 says, “Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God.” Plant yourself with God. Allow His love to flow in and out of you to others. Create and cherish those around you and live in the Shalom or peace with one another.
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord…Psalm 144:15Finding true happiness