We all want to live a long, healthy and happy life, right? But what is the secret recipe to achieve that?
In the 80’s one would say “work hard, play hard,” in the 90’s, the health trend 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 becoming health heroes and vice-versa: eggs, butter/margarine, coconut oil and so on. Yoga and Pilates are a must today as were Aerobics and running in the late 80’s and 90’s. But regardless all these changing health trends, there are a few things people agree that will keep you healthy and happy: No smoking, drinking a lot of water and Alcohol only with moderation, 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?
All these good habits may help, 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, beginning when they were all teenagers, half of them, students at Harvard, and the other half, from the poorest and most troubled areas of Boston. Every two years they were interviewed and given medical exams, blood test, brain scans, etc., 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 alive and still participating in the study, that is now beginning to study the more than 2.000 children of these men.
So far, there are three big lessons that we can learn from this study:
Social connections to family, friends, and community make us happier and physically healthier.
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 extremely bad for your health.
Being in a secure relationship, where you know you can count on the other person (or persons) 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.
Why not start by replacing those long hours at the gym or in front of the screen with family time and more real-time with your friends? Engage in some community work and interact more with people around you, not only your close relationships but also the people you meet every day, at the coffee shop, the supermarket or in the street!
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