In 1938 Harvard researchers embarked on a decades-long study to find out: The Secret to Happiness. The researchers collected health records from 724 participants from around the world and asked detailed questions about their lives at two-year intervals.
Contrary to what some might think, the secret to happiness is not professional achievement, money, exercise or a healthy diet. But the most consistent finding Harvard University has found in 85 years of study is this: positive relationships, which make people happier and healthier and help them live longer.
The first key to a happy life: Social Fitness
And the study discovered that relationships affect us physically. The researchers behind the study, Robert Waldinger and Mark Schulz, asked what causes the refreshment you feel when you think someone understood you well during a conversation, or the reason for the lack of sleep in a romantic period.
The researchers stressed that it is necessary to ensure that your relationships are healthy and balanced, and called for the need to practice “social fitness”.
Contrary to what is believed that by simply establishing strong and friendly friendships and relationships, this is sufficient for social fitness, but our social life is a living system, and it needs practice, according to what the two researchers told CNBC, and Al Arabiya.net viewed it.
“Positive Social Fitness” is the #1 reason for happiness and health
To be sure, social fitness requires valuing our relationships, being honest with ourselves about where we are devoting our time and whether we are nurturing the connections that help us thrive.
How do you rate your relationships?
The researchers said that humans are social creatures, and each of us as individuals cannot provide everything he needs for himself, so we need others to interact with us and help us.
And in our lives there are seven basic stones of support:
Safety and Security: Who would you call if you woke up scared in the middle of the night? Who do you turn to in a moment of crisis?
Learning and Growth: Who encourages you to try new things, seize opportunities, and pursue your life goals?
Emotional Closeness and Trust: Who knows everything (or most things) about you? Who can you call when you are feeling low and be honest with how you feel?
Affirmation of Identity and Shared Experience: Is there someone in your life who has shared many experiences with you and helps you strengthen your sense of who you are?
Romantic relationship: Are you satisfied with the amount of intimacy in your life?
Help (informational and practical): Who do you turn to if you need some expertise or help with a practical problem (eg planting a tree, or fixing your WiFi connection)?
Fun and Relaxation: Who Makes You Laugh? Who do you call to see a movie or go on a road trip with who makes you feel connected and comfortable?
The researchers developed an arranged model around the seven pillars of successful social relationships. The first column of relationships that you believe have the greatest impact on you.
To practice, just put a plus sign (+) in the appropriate columns if the relationship seems to add this kind of support to your life, and a minus sign (-) if the relationship lacks this kind of support.
Relationship evaluation form
And the researchers hinted that it is okay if not all relationships – or even most – provide all of these types of support.
The researchers considered this exercise to be like an X-ray – a tool that helps you see below the surface of your social world. “Not all of these types of support will feel important to you, but consider which ones are helpful and ask yourself if you are getting enough support in those areas,” they said.
Looking at the gaps on the chart, you may realize that you have a lot of people to have fun with, but no one to trust. Or maybe you only have one person to go to for help, or that person you take for granted actually makes you feel safe.
The researchers called for the necessity of not being afraid to communicate with the people in your life.
Robert Waldinger, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and director of psychodynamic therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Mark Schulz is co-director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and the two doctors are co-authors of The Good Life.