Harvard Found The Secret To Happiness And It's Honestly So Simple

Here's how to actually be happy.

Last updated on Sep 17, 2023

Woman finding happiness around friends Jacob Lund | Canva

By Dominique Astorino

What's the secret to happiness and health? Is it something that we just have to wake up and decide to do? Has it always been that simple? According to Harvard professor and psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, it has nothing to do with fame, money, or success. "Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period." It turns out that people are the answer, no matter how much some of us seem to hate others. People are what makes us better, and what makes this whole mess of life seemingly worthwhile.


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In a multigenerational study that began at Harvard in the 1930s, two groups were studied: male Harvard students (which the New York Times noted included John F. Kennedy) and young boys from disadvantaged families living in Boston's poorest neighborhoods.


Through brain scans, interviews with the subjects (and eventually their families), blood analyses, and health exams, the 75+ year study has given a pretty profound conclusion. Happiness and health are all about relationships.

Harvard found the secret to happiness and it's honestly so simple, and these are the biggest takeaways:

1. People who are more socially connected are happier, physically healthier, and live longer

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2. Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to close relationships; relationship satisfaction predicts future health

No one wants to spend their life surrounded by people who don't understand them.

3. While high-conflict marriages can be worse than divorce, a "good relationship" doesn't mean zero bickering

There are ups and downs, but trust, commitment, and respect are key.


4. "Loneliness kills."

The feeling of loneliness can be toxic; people who are isolated are less happy, their health declines sooner, their brain function declines sooner, and they live shorter lives. We can all agree that being lonely sucks, and that you can even feel lonely in a room full of people. That's why it's so important to surround yourself with the right people, or it will slowly kill you.

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“Those good relationships don’t have to be smooth all the time,” Dr. Waldinger said. “Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker day in and day out. But as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”

In his Ted Talk, Waldinger reminded us to lean into our relationships as much as we do our professional endeavors; our lives quite literally depend on it.


Make friends in and out of work, and nurture your relationships with friends, family, and significant others, no matter how challenging it is. "Relationships are messy and complicated; it's not sexy or glamorous. But it's life-long."

RELATED: 10 Essential Truths You Need To Accept If You Want A Happier Life

Dominique Astorino is a wellness journalist, health coach, and podcast host.