1 October, 2020
The most important determinant of longevity and happiness is having a close relationship with at least one person - this is the conclusion made by Harvard longest study on adult development. This study started in 1938, during the Great Depression, and continues to this day. The results are widespread thanks to the famous 2015 TED Talk
of Robert Waldinger, Director of the Harvard Adult Development Study. Researchers have found that the only common characteristic of the happiest, long-lived people was that they had built at least one long-term relationship with another person. We are not talking about an intimate relationship here – belonging and love have multiple forms - connection between parent and child, friendship, connections with colleagues or neighbors.
Presenting Harvard's research, Robert Waldinger conveys three main messages:
- Social contacts play a key role in our happiness, health and life satisfaction. The phrase "loneliness kills" is really true!
- When we talk about relationships with others, it is good to focus on quality, not quantity. "Living in constant conflict is really bad for your health. Marriages in which there are many contradictions and lack of attachment are more detrimental to health than divorce.
- Our relationships with others play a key role in our resilience and memory. It has been scientifically proven that people who had a long-term relationship with another person are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's and other brain-related diseases and show more resilience.
The need to love and be loved is hardwired in us. An interesting fact is that following this basic need, some people chase desperately love, involve themselves in epic journeys to search for their better half, forgetting that we can control only how much love we give, not how much we receive.
There are at least 3 good reasons to convince us that it is more useful and effective, both for our health and for our happiness, to focus on being generous to give and share love:
- One of the main social intelligence principles is the reciprocity. Most of the people are generally kind and grateful, so they will be willing to respond to gifts received with gifts made by them, to love with love. The more generous we are with the love and smiles we give to others, the more they will come back to us.
- Second, let’s remind ourselves about the law of attraction - we attract people like ourselves. The more generosity and compassion we show, the more we will be surrounded and meet generous and compassionate people. It has been scientifically proven that being surrounded with kind and generous people has a more beneficial effect on happiness than contact with egocentric and materialistic people.
- And last but not least, being generous in sharing love and kindness with others makes us happier and more confident for an interesting reason: the stories we tell ourselves. When you are generous with love, the story you tell yourself is that you have everything you need and more, which is why you can afford to be generous in sharing love. Using positive affirmations is a widespread technique for boosting self-confidence and well-being. Just imagine how much more convincing you will be when repeating silently statements such as: "I'm good, I'm generous, I'm loved", if it is truly supported by your actions from the recent past such as: donating money or time for children deprived of parental care or elderly people; forming a group of neighbors to clean the neighborhood area and plant some trees or sending gratitude notes or emails, thanking people who have helped you lately with something.
One of the messages that Mother Teresa has left us is that not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.
If you want to try this idea, buy someone's favorite chocolate and leave it on their desk or in their bag as a surprise, or while you wait in line for coffee, spontaneously pay for the coffee of the person behind you. Use your kindness and creativity to think about new ways to practice generosity and share with others small portions of love!