We all want to live a long, healthy and happy life, but is there a secret recipe to achieve that?
In the long-gone ’80s, one would say “work hard, play hard” to lead a happy life. In the ’90s, the health trend for a long, healthy life was low-fat and fat-free food such as fat-free chips that contained Olestra, which caused terrible side-effects. Then came the “no fat, high carb diet,” which after some years became the “high fat, no carbs diet.”
Some products went from being the great villains to the heroes for long healthy life, and vice-versa. For example; eggs, butter/margarine, coconut oil, and so on. Yoga and Pilates are a must today as were Aerobics and running in the late ’80s and ’90s. But regardless of all these changing health trends, there are a few basic rules people agree on, that will ensure you a life that’s healthy, long and happy. No smoking, drinking a lot of water, and alcohol, only with moderation. Additionally, not being overweight, yearly check-ups, several servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day. And of course, exercising regularly and a having a successful career, right?
Well, sorry to disappoint you but that’s not it!
All these good habits may help, of course, but they won’t ensure you a long, happy and healthy life.
According to an incredible 75 -year-long study that is being done by Harvard, the secret to a happy and healthy life is good relationships. Period.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men and their families. The life-long study began when they were all teenagers, some happy and healthy, others not so. Half of them were students at Harvard University. The other half came from the poorest and most troubled areas of Boston. Every two years, they were interviewed and given medical exams, blood test, brain scans, etc. The study followed them without knowing how their lives would turn out. One of these young boys became president of the United States!
About 60 of the original 724 men are still healthy and alive, and still participating in the long study that is now beginning to study the life of more than 2.000 children of these men.
So far, there are three big lessons that we can learn from this study:
1 – Social connections are good for long, happy life, and loneliness kills.
Social connections to family, friends, and community make us happier and physically healthier.
2- The quality of your relationships is what matters.
It is not whether or not you are married, but it is the quality of your close relationships that matter. Good, warm relationships are protective, but high conflict marriages without much affection are awful for your health.
3- Good relationships protect our body and brain.
Being in a secure relationship, where you know you can count on the other person in difficult times, protects your memory. Even if this relationship isn’t always smooth.
So, if you want to lead a long, happy and healthy life, keep in mind especially the two most important factors: good close relationships and social interaction.
Small changes for a long, healthy and happy life
Why not start by replacing those long hours at the gym by more real-time with your friends? Or trade the hours you spend in front of the screen with family time? Also, try engaging in some community work and interact more with the people around you. This means, not only with your close relationships. Also engage with the people you meet every day, at the coffee shop, the supermarket or in the streets. Little steps like smiling and saying hello to a stranger can help you lead a long, healthy and happy life.
You may also want to learn about Lagom, the Nordic balanced lifestyle.
Photos via Shutterstock