• The Science of Happiness

    The Science of Happiness

    Results of a multiyear study of happiness — the longest ever done — are in. The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938 and has followed hundreds of people to help discover what makes them thrive.


    The research found that what made the most difference in participants’ lives, what made them happy, was interpersonal relationships. Those relationships were more important to observed measures of happiness than other factors like IQ or social status.


    One of the researchers, Dr. Robert Waldinger, summarized the findings in “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness” — a book he co-authored with Marc Schulz, associate director of the Harvard study. Working with writer Jancee Dunn, Dr. Waldinger helped create the 7-Day Happiness Challenge for The New York Times, which includes exercises designed to help increase happiness based on the study’s findings.


    Dr. Waldinger’s recommendations are simple, but they’re things that can all too easily fall by the wayside in the crush of daily life:

    1. Take stock of your relationships. Who are the people in your life who matter, the ones who really make a difference when you spend time with them?
    2. Make an eight-minute phone call. Interacting with someone’s voice strengthens connection, builds trust and is more effective in communicating about emotional topics. You can reap the benefits through a phone call, and it doesn’t even have to be a long one. Text a friend and ask if they’ll hop on an eight-minute call. Just eight minutes with a hard stop. You’ll be surprised at how much you can connect in a short time.
    3. Engage in small talk. Pick someone you don’t know well — the supermarket checkout clerk, a neighbor. Then talk to them. It doesn’t have to be about anything important. Simple pleasantries and interactions can make the day brighter for each of you — and you could make a new friend.
    4. Write a “living eulogy.” Tell an important person in your life how much you value them. Where would you be without them? Write down the things you’d say to them if you thought you would never see them again — then send it to them.
    5. Work friends matter too. A 2022 Gallup study showed that people with a best friend at the office were more likely to have fun at work and be more satisfied with their job.
    6. Don’t cancel those plans. Sure, it’s easier to stay home and binge watch Netflix, but if you’re invited to a social gathering, make the effort to go. You’re likely to get more out of it than you think.
    7. Keep up with social engagements. Set goals for your relationships and commit to consistent interactions. Join a book club or walking group — or mentor someone who could benefit from your expertise.

    “Social forces keep pulling us away from each other,” Dr. Waldinger says. “We all need to be more intentional about constructing lives to turn toward each other. That intention can be put into practice each week: ‘Who haven’t I seen that I can reach out to?’ … When people get into their 80s and are asked what they regret most, they say, ‘I wish I had spent more time with the people I care about the most.’”


    If you have issues that you feel are preventing you from being happy, start with your relationships. If you’d like professional help strengthening the quality of your relationships, you can reach me at CouplesTherapyOrlando.com, or 407-579-2070.







    Therapy services available via Telehealth.