The longest study on adult development and life satisfaction was recently completed at Harvard University. The study tracked 700 men over 75 years and is considered the most comprehensive study on human behavior ever done.
Guess what ONE thing they learned? (Watch this TedTalk of Robert Waldinger to get the summary.)
What does Robert conclude in the video? One thing: "Warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on 'life satisfaction.'"
Simple yet so powerful, right?
Waldinger also said, "...Over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships — with family, with friends, with community."
Another important conclusion was that without good quality relationships, you suffer more, don’t live as long, and end up having more financial and health problems. In other words, having good solid relationships is the key to a well-lived, fulfilling life; not having great relationships shortens your life and causes stress and illness.
And as a formerly emotionally constipated man who was very afraid of intimacy, to now a happily married husband and father, I know this to be true. My life is so much better now that I have finally learned how to create very close connections with the most important people in my life. Life is so much better.
Okay, but if relationships are the most important part of our lives, why then, are there no classes in school teaching it? Umm, perhaps because our education system is archaic and outdated. Ya think?
For example, did you ever take a social skills class in school? How about an “intimacy” course? What about a class on how to navigate conflict in a long term relationship or how not to blame others for your problems and instead take responsibility for them and do something about it? Or maybe a class on how to get along with difficult people in the workplace? Damn, I could have used all of the above!
Well, I got tired of complaining about all of this so I decided to start my own school and teach the class you and I were never taught: Intimate Relationships. Imagine what’s possible if teens and young adults were required to take a street smart course on relationships.
If you want a fun exercise you can do right now that will put this study to the test, try this: Pick your closest relationship, a friend or partner and make this type of statement to them:
“I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you for being my friend. Having you in my life helps me in every way. I’m willing to work through hard stuff with you because I get that the level of my relationships determine my life satisfaction.”
If you are not bringing your respect and care to your relationships, no problem. You’ll be joining the statistics of people who suffer more and don’t live as long. If, on the other hand, you want to live a very satisfying life, then you’ll need to make your closest relationships a top priority and continue to learn how to strengthen them.
This article was originally published at Elephant Journal. Reprinted with permission from the author.