What is a better predictor of physical health at the age of fifty? Is it your cholesterol level? Is it your amount of wealth, fame, or high achievement? Is it the number of degrees you have acquired? The answer to all of these questions is “No”.
According to the longest study ever done on Adult Development by Harvard University that spanned over 75 years on teenage individuals with yearly follow-ups until they reached 80 or 90 years of age, it was identified that “people who were most satisfied in their relationships in their 50s were the happiest and healthiest at age 80”. 724 men were followed up annually and queried about their lives, home, job etc. by several generations of researchers to find out how their lives would turn out.
To make a long story short, there are four key takeaways from this amazing study:
- Social connections with family, friends, and community at large are great for us and keep us happy and healthy, and let us live longer. On the other hand, loneliness kills: it declines brain functioning sooner than later and leads to life span shortening by affecting our health in midlife. Loneliness is not the same thing as being alone; one can be lonely in a crowd or marriage too. Isolation during the global pandemic, for example, has created loneliness especially in children and the elderly by isolating them more than they want to be isolated. Staying connected virtually at least is crucial in this day and age.
- The quantity of friends you have and/or being in relationship do not matter as much as the quality of your close relationships. Living in the middle of conflict is terrible for your health. It is like living under chronic stress or a continuous “fight or flight” situation. Rather, living among warm and good relationships is protective for your well-being in the long run. To illustrate, happily married partners in the study reported that on days when they had more aches and pains of old age their mood stayed just as happy, while the physical pain of those individuals who were in bad relationships was enhanced multifold due to their ongoing conflict and emotional pain.
- Good relationships protect our bodies as well as our brain. Having securely attached relationships all the way into 80s is protective for your health. These relationships allow both partners to feel they have someone in their life whom they can trust and count on when the going gets tough. It also keeps their memories sharper longer. Those who believe that they cannot count on their partner/s, friends, or family members experience early memory decline. It is not rocket science that good relations make us happy and healthy, but we often forget this because we are pulled towards quick solutions and material things that we believe will give us happiness. Relationships on the other hand are difficult, complicated, require time and hard work that never ends.
- After retirement, those individuals who actively replaced their workmates with playmates were the happiest in the study, again emphasizing the need for good connections and social relations.
So, according to the research “the key to a happy and healthy life is not wealth, fame, and high achievement but the leaning into solid, supportive, warm relationships with family, friends, and community.”
But I would like to add here two crucial things for a life fulfilled in every way:
- Our relationship with ourselves, which includes knowing our “Who”, “What’, and “Why”. It means being true to ourselves, to follow our inner calling and own path, which is possible only when we know the gifts that only we possess. And once we know those gifts, we embark on a journey to share them with others, as they are not for us to keep to ourselves. It involves how we talk with ourselves, our inner self-dialogue, and attitude towards ourselves. This is the stepping-stone for building good relations with others around us. Are we kind, respectful, and loving to ourselves? Or are we harsh and cruel with ourselves? Do we use bad labels to define ourselves?
Oftentimes people may forgive other people but find it hard to forgive themselves. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and move on with more wisdom. Our unconscious mind will follow through with our beliefs and we either gain friends and family or lose them in response to our own beliefs and actions. We should love ourselves enough to let go of what is harming us and keep and strive for what benefits us emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Letting go of grudges is so crucial for our peace of mind and body. Oftentimes people hold on to something that happened in the past when they were wronged by or unappreciated by someone. They are unable to forgive and move on. They let that negative emotion and energy swallow their happiness and health. Letting go is an art too and requires strength of character. (But this is another topic that I can talk about for hours and will cover it in another article later.)
- But the most important aspect of being a human being and having lived a fulfilled and happy life in my opinion is being in touch with your spirituality and having a higher purpose. For me, that entails knowing your Creator and having a loving relationship with your Creator. But no matter what religion we belong to, if we are spiritually strong and have a deep connection with God or any of our spiritual beliefs, we feel ultimate fulfillment, happiness, and purpose in life. Having a higher purpose inspires us to prepare for the highest level of success, which for me is in the afterlife in the form of Heaven, also called Jannah. It mobilizes us to do good to ourselves, our loved ones, neighbors, family, friends, and to strangers. It helps us spread love, peace, light, wisdom, and create beauty around in our lives and around us. This is the ultimate recipe for true success and a healthy life!
If you need help for developing thriving relationships contact Dr. Shazia Shah, a physician, American Board Cerftified NLP Practitioner/Hypnotherapist/TimeLine Therapist/Life Coach.
Mineo, L. (2018, November 26). Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life. Retrieved February 19, 2021, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life