What makes a good ‘happy’ life?

At a time of year where we are reflecting on our achievements and experiences from the previous year and planning for the upcoming one, happiness and good health should factor into any goal planning (Post on personal goal setting). The problem is that happiness is a somewhat ambiguous and a grossly mis-represented and glamourised subject. This post is about a fantastic study that ultimately reinforces what we probably already know but often don’t see – that over time, positive relationships with loved ones and friends and family are far more likely to reap you happiness and good health than being famous or rich.

Happiness and good health, or the quest for them both, are human obsessions. Our demand for finding happiness and good health fuels an ever growing multi-multi million dollar industry and even more ‘experts’ expert advice on how to achieve limitless states of both. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for self help and life improvement literature and there are many useful and motivating books / talks out there to help achieve a better ‘happier’ life that have had a hugely positive impact on my outlook and approach to life. Likewise, technology and connectivity have enabled us to capture and share our happiness with a much wider audience, which can be incredibly positive. That said, it’s so easy to be in a moment and lose the moment because we are obsessed with capturing the moment, all because we want to share the moment with our friends so they can see how happy we are, or not. A classic example of this is see the sea of mobile phones lighting up a gig. I wonder if we often ruin it for ourselves.

With the abundance of self help books, expert advice, technological and connectivity advances, I think our definition of what we believe ‘happy’ to actually mean would be somewhat paradoxical compared with the same hypothetical you talking about happiness from your death bed (Live Life and don’t regret).  If only that were possible.

Well, it kind of is and this post is about a really interesting TED talk by Dr. Robert Waldinger discussing the findings from one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history (The Harvard Study of Adult Development), which tracked the lives of two very different groups of men over 75 years. Dr Robert Waldinger is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Center for Psychodynamic Therapy and Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the fourth Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development in its 75 year old life.

The key takeaways from the talk are ultimately that family, positive relationships and friends make for a far ‘happier’ and healthier life.


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