Although taking care of our physical bodies is one critical piece of the longevity puzzle, according to the longest study ever done on happiness, the quality of our relationships is key to living a joy-filled life.
In today’s newsletter, we’re discussing key findings from the 80-year-long Harvard study and sharing tips on how to prioritize your relationships and find a community of like-minded friends.
Let’s jump right in!
The Longest Study Ever Done on Happiness
The study, led by researchers at Harvard University, began in 1938 and followed 724 young men from various socioeconomic backgrounds throughout their lifetimes to gain insight into the factors that influence adult development and healthy aging.
Researchers have collected a wealth of data points on the participants over the years. Every two years, they sent out questionnaires, they collected medical records every five years, and they conducted in-person interviews every 10 years.
As the study progressed, researchers discovered that the men who aged best were also the happiest. And it wasn’t money or fame that brought them happiness. It was the quality of their relationships.
In other words, it was how supported they felt by their spouse, friends, family, and community. How powerful is that?!
What’s even more powerful was that relationship satisfaction in midlife was a better predictor of physical health and longevity than cholesterol and genetics. We see this play out in the Blue Zones, home to the oldest people in the world. Diet quality and daily movement are important, but a sense of community seems to be an underlying theme in each of these regions.
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This study provides 85 years’ worth of evidence that the quality of our relationships is key to healthy aging. But I totally understand if that might sound easier said than done.
If you’ve lost touch with friends or are looking to form a tribe of your own, here are a few tips that have helped me over the years.
- Create your own community. If you’re struggling to find a community, why not create one of your own? I started my local men’s group, called Man Morning, eight years ago, and it’s consistently been one of the greatest things that I show up for and look forward to every week.Every Thursday, a group of guys from L.A. and I will pick a meeting spot, go for a walk or hike, and share what’s going on in our lives. We offer support and, most importantly, listen to the challenges each member might be working through. Surrounding yourself with people who are on a similar journey can help you bounce ideas and provide clarity about things you wouldn’t have seen on your own. That’s the power of community!
- Go where people grow. If you want to create your own community but don’t know where to start, I love this quote by my friend Lewis Howes. He says, “Go where people grow,” and it couldn’t be more true! Find friends who are into what you’re into and immerse yourself in that space.Do you like to work out? Join a gym and strike up a conversation with the person working out next to you.Do you like to read? Join a local book club.Do you like to hike? Go to your favorite trail and say hello to a fellow hiker.The key is not to be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself. What do you have to lose? You’d be surprised at how many people are looking to find friends too!My cowriter, Taylor, can attest to this. She joined a yoga studio recently and found a community of new friends there. By getting to class early and staying a few minutes late, she’s been able to connect, grab phone numbers, and make plans outside of class with friends who share similar interests in wellness.Once you find that friend you’ve been looking for, schedule a time to hang out. Be intentional about forging a new friendship. Ask meaningful questions, follow up, make plans, and try your best to get to know the other person. It could lead to something incredible.
- Instead of doom-scrolling, do this! This is a practice that has worked really well for me over the years. Instead of doom-scrolling endlessly on the weekends, I’ll open my contacts app on my phone, scroll a few times, and land on a random name. Then, I text the person I landed on either a picture of us or a memory we shared and tell them how grateful I am that they’re in my life.You’d be surprised at how often this opens the door for conversation and will even lead to us scheduling a phone call or a time to hang out and catch up. It brings me joy to connect with a friend or family member I haven’t talked to in a while, and it always makes the person on the receiving end super happy to be thought about as well.
Feeling deeply understood and supported by the people in our lives is the most powerful driver of happiness and longevity—period.
As simple and obvious as the findings from this study are, it’s incredible to see so many people living their lives completely opposite to its teachings.
When you look around, it’s not hard to see a society of people who don’t prioritize their friends and family, and every generation seems more isolated than the last.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just a few priority shifts are all it takes to radically improve your happiness by making important relationships a central part of your life.
Here’s to your health and longevity,