www.jpost.com /health-and-wellness/mind-and-spirit/article-732029

The 5 secrets to happy life, according to an 80-year-long Harvard study

By WALLA! 4-5 minutes

Money isn't everything!

Good relationships are far more important to our happiness than money and success, according to a new book based on the longest-running study on happiness ever, which was conducted by Harvard University.

Robert J. Waldinger, the psychiatrist who oversaw the study in its later years, told the Daily Mail that the biggest surprise is that good relationships don't just make us happy during life, they also keep our body and mind healthier. We live longer.

The book The Good Life, published in September of this past year, is based on interviews that measured life satisfaction regularly throughout people's lives and changes many of the assumptions about what leads to happiness. Here are some lessons on happiness featured in the book.

Friends make you happy

Social ties are strongly linked to health and longevity, the researchers say. They point to a 2010 study that showed people with strong social connections were 50% more likely to survive any given year. Researchers wrote that these are very strong positive connections, equal to the negative effect of smoking or cancer. Smoking in the US is considered one cause of preventable death. 

‘A HAPPY baby requires a happy mother.’ (credit: PEXELS)

As time passes, study after study, including theirs, continues to strengthen the link between good relationships and health.

According to researchers, study participants who didn't make time for people found themselves isolated and unhappy, even miserable. They wrote that most people have friends and relatives who encourage us yet we don't see enough of them. Ask yourself if you're spending time with the people you care about the most.

Don't forget who really helps you - and who you help

To build a healthy support network, the researchers advise writing who supports you and who you support, in different categories: Support can be provided in the form of safety and security, learning and growth, emotional closeness and self-confidence, shared experience, romantic intimacy, and fun and relaxation, etc.

Researchers say to ask yourself if there are people in your life you want to support more. If you know people who care about others, or who are under a lot of life pressure, are there ways you can be there for them, and make sure they get support themselves?

Happiness isn't a destination

The authors emphasize that happiness isn't a destination but a process and that it's possible to achieve happiness through facing difficult times together. The study is full of people who struggled but have remained happy with the emotional support of their strong relationships. 

The good life is joyful yet challenging. Full of love but also pain. Life never happens the way you think it will. Instead, the good life is revealed over time. It's a process.

Researchers wrote that life includes turmoil, calm, lightness, burdens, struggles, achievements, failures, leaps forward and terrible falls. And of course, the good life always ends in death.

Learn from our own experience

To help build your relationships with other people, the authors advise handling problems with an approach called W.I.S.E.R, which stands for watch, interpret, select (a response), engage and reflect.

Researchers stated that to learn from experience and succeed next time, we need to do more than just live it. We need to reflect. Next time, maybe we can take a fraction of a second to consider the situation, clarify our goals, weigh possibilities to respond, and move the needle of our lives in the right direction.

Happiness can be found at any time

Many people feel "trapped" in their lives or feel that it's impossible to make a change. One watchmaker in the study, for example, was trapped in an unhappy marriage all his life, but when he got divorced at age 68, he began socializing daily with people from his local health club. His happiness score rose to the highest possible level.

Many participants in the study also had an unhappy childhood, or a childhood marred by drunken or violent parents, but they managed to achieve happiness in life. 

The study authors wrote that one's various ways of being in the world aren't set in stone, but rather it's more like they're set in sand. One's childhood and/or your natural inclination isn't your fate. The neighborhood you grew up in isn't your destiny.