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So according to that Harvard study, the way to happiness is to have good, supportive, loving relationships. One solid central relationship will work, but so will other relationships; relationships with family, with friends, with others in your communities, even with work colleagues. In view of that last, it would seem that all those men who drop dead shortly after retirement may not only be missing the sense of being needed, of having something to contribute, but also the companionship of their colleagues.

And according to the study, it’s not just having people around you that’s important, but also the quality of those relationships. People who are married but whose relationships are not supportive are just as likely to die earlier than those who don’t have close relationships in their lives. It’s not just having relationships which is important, but the quality of those relationships. Bad relationships are no protection; indeed, you can be as lonely or lonelier in a bad relationship as your can on your actual own, and it’s the loneliness that kills.

What seems to protect us, and to actually deliver long life and happiness, is believing that we have people around us whom we can rely on, people who care about us and will support us; in other words, people who love us. So the secret of lasting happiness appears to be love. Not more or better stuff, not new clothes, not detoxed gym-bunny bodies, not fame, not fortune, not status, but good old old-fashioned love. Who’d a’ thunk it?

More tomorrow.