What Makes A Happy Life, A Fulfilling Life, A Good Life?

Cultivating and embracing quality relationships in life is turning out to be far more important than anyone realized, having health benefits decades down the road.

The renowned Harvard University embarked on a study back in 1938 to examine the question of what makes us happy in life; the study has been going on ever since making it the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted. What is revealed is fascinating.

It started during the Great Depression with 724 teens comprised of two groups, Harvard sophomores, and economically disadvantaged Boston inner-city boys. Every two years for the last 85 years, researchers from the study asked the participants questions they hoped would reveal the keys to happiness. The study was later expanded to include the spouses of the original men and their 2000 offspring to see how early life impacted health and aging. The questions were about their health, their home, their lifestyle choices, marital status, worries, what brought them joy, and more. They also underwent medical testing such as blood work, brain exams, and even hormone checks.
Dr. Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of this study, recently wrote the book, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. Waldinger states that it’s not about wealth, fame or even working hard. The clearer message is good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

“Social connections are really good for us and loneliness kills. More than one in five Americans report they are lonely; you can be lonely in a crowd and even in marriage because it’s the quality of the close relationships that matters. Very telling, the people who were most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains,” he said in a Ted Talk.

The people who have fared the best in the study are those who lean into relationships with family, friends, and community. That is especially true when someone enters retirement; it’s important to replace the work colleagues with new friends with whom to enjoy this next phase of life.
So that poses the question: how can you lean into relationships? Maybe say hello to a neighbor at the mailbox or call an old friend or family member. Organize a neighborhood volunteer event at a food bank or area school. Take the important first step to put yourself out there to meet new people who may also be looking for that new friend.

When we’re planning our Christopher Todd communities, the social infrastructure has been a critical part of our community design. We endeavor to create a sense of connection via events, yoga classes at the pool, or movie nights on the Event Lawn. Knowing your neighbors and having that sense of community translates into happier residents, underscoring the importance of good relationships, health and happiness. The trick is that those relationships must be nurtured and the burden for that falls on each and every one of us individually to make them happen.

Tour a Christopher Todd community today or get in contact with us.

Written By

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Martha Moyer Wagoner

Martha Moyer Wagoner is our Director of Public Relations, focusing on media relations while also fostering industry education and community goodwill. Martha loves to escape to her mountain cabin where she does her best to avoid bears.