Living a Happy Life

FACT: Good connections throughout your life help you live longer. Read on, if you don't believe me ....


The Importance of Connection for Living a Happy Life; by Harriet Sneath (WoWWizard! of Training and Wellbeing Practitioner)

15 years ago, I was in a well-paid, wonderful L&D role at PizzaExpress. Life was good, I had no idea about personal wellbeing or that such a thing existed. I breezed on through my career without giving it a second thought. Then, when I finally became a mother (after 4 years of trying, getting pregnant, miscarrying, trying again...) my outlook on life did a complete 360 about turn - I’m sure many parents can relate. I just knew I couldn't and wouldn’t go back to the 4 hours of travelling each day, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Yes, I missed the salary and my lovely colleagues but starting a small business and being a mother meant so much more to me and my wellbeing than the trappings of my previous life; and they were good trappings - meals out in amazing restaurants, generous car allowance, trips abroad and loads of personal development, to name but a few.

I can feel it when I’ve had a day of good connecting; I have a spring in my step, I am more articulate, less stressed, and generally content. Here are my top 5 ways to connect:

1. Catching up with friends at the school gates

2. Cooking dinner for friends

3. Talking with people face to face

4. Walking with my friend and her dog

5. Smiling and chatting with the barista or cashier

So, how does feeling connected as often as possible help us to live longer? Here’s an interesting statistic from the U.S.

80% of U.S millennials surveyed recently said their major life goal was to get rich. Another 50% said another goal was to become famous.

So many of us have been encouraged all our lives to get a good job, work hard and go after the things we want in order to have a good life, but does chasing fame and fortune make us happy in the long term? The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been tracking the happiness of 724 men for the last 75 years, from their late teens through to the present day. Half the men were from Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods and the other half from Harvard University. It is the longest study of adult life ever carried out.  

Year in, year out, the men were asked questions about their work, home life, health and relationships. 60 of the original 724 are still alive today. (Their wives were asked to join the study some years ago.) From their answers, there is one clear message that has emerged; fame and wealth do not bring lasting health and happiness. The people with the highest levels of quality social connections recorded the highest levels of wellbeing.  

When the men reached 50 years old, it wasn’t cholesterol levels that the Harvard study measured in the men to predict how they would fare as they grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The men most satisfied in their relationships at 50 were also the healthiest group when they hit 80.  Regardless of upbringing, status or wealth, the one common denominator that has mattered in the happiness of these mens’ lives, throughout the study, is how well supported, loved and safe they have felt in their relationships. Those who reported they were unhappy also felt more physical pain as it was exacerbated by the emotional pain of being unhappy. Good connections not only protect our bodies but also our brains. Those who said they could really count on their partner had sharper memories for longer.  

But what can we do to foster and nurture a good life for ourselves?  

Having a good life and living as a well-being both stem from the quality of our relationships, our connections, not how many friends we have on social media. You can also be married or in a close relationship and still feel lonely. High conflict relationships are bad for our health, both mental and physical. These are worse for your health than going through a divorce. Conversely, living within good, warm relationships protects us and bolsters us from feeling as much pain. Living and breathing The 5 Ways to Wellbeing (#connect #takenotice #beactive#keeplearning #give) contributes to the good life enormously. As Robert Waldinger says in his TED Talk, “The good life is built with good relationships.” So, let’s foster those connections, keep making new ones and live happier for longer.

Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Listen to Robert Waldinger's Ted Talk here

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