The Harvard Study:
85 years exploring what makes us happy
Considering “Social Fitness”
The CommunityCare of Lyme team is eager to share this new article from CNBC, where contributing writers Marc Schulz and Robert Waldinger share results from a Harvard Study started in 1938 that addresses the question: What makes us happy?
The most consistent finding we’ve learned through 85 years of study is: Positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer. Period.
(Schulz, Waldinger, Feb. 10, 2023).
They take this research-based assertion a step further, naming “the #1 key to a happy life: ‘social fitness'”. They note that friendships or intimate relationships are not self-sustaining; they require regular practice or “exercise” to stay strong and become stronger. To learn the best “exercise” for our relationships, we can pause to evaluate whether we’re putting time and energy into the connections that support us in thriving. Schultz and Waldinger encourage taking stock of the relationships that nurture us, and and they offer a framework for considering the sources of support in our lives. They list seven “keystones of support” that create the most healthful relationships.
A review of our many relationships can help us identify where there may be gaps – where we may benefit from shoring up one or more of the keystones of support. There are lots of ways to add in practices – exercises – to enhance our social fitness. It’s not a solo activity.
Waldinger, Robert, and Marc Schulz. “An 85-Year Harvard Study Found the No. 1 Thing That Makes Us Happy in Life: It Helps Us ‘Live Longer’.” CNBC, CNBC, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/02/10/85-year-harvard-study-found-the-secret-to-a-long-happy-and-successful-life.html.
CommunityCare of Lyme is dedicated to ensuring that everyone can thrive. That’s a broad mission. We see opportunities for people to come together as central to ensuring that everyone has the connections and support they need. We appreciate this article’s concrete way of thinking about the many pieces in the puzzle of relationships that make for a healthy life. We are all about practicing and improving “social fitness!”
CCL offers a wide range of intentional opportunities to gather – in small groups, as a community, and one-to-one – as well as an always-open “door” to a friendly ear when you need it. So far this February, we have offered opportunities to join in a Midwinter Mingle and a Galentine’s Day celebration of special women, expert-led community discussions on communication in relationships and staying safe and connected in winter, a weekly book group, friendly phone visits, anxiety-reducing joint problem solving, and walk-in conversations during open office hours.
Everyone is welcome at CCL events. The Community Calendar shares a selection of events and activities across the Upper Valley and online, adding options for healthy, meaningful connection. Another way to enrich relationships is through volunteerism – opportunities to utilize your passions and interests to build relationships in lots of different ways.
We love the clarity of the research, as described by Schultz and Waldinger: Your “social fitness” contributes directly to your own health … and to a healthy, happy community. We encourage you to focus on developing and appreciating relationships with loved ones and neighbors, to forge new ones with people who are new in town or new to you, and to strengthen your “social fitness” in the ways that matter most to you. Whether you participate in events or programs, volunteer to lend a hand, or could use support, you are part of creating a happy, healthy community.
Please let us know your thoughts about this research, share your questions, and offer ideas to support “social fitness” on any scale. You can send an email, call us at 603-795-0603, or visit during office hours (Monday through Thursday, 9-11am or by appointment).
Every Wednesday, CommunityCare of Lyme lifts up a wellness topic, embracing the widest possible definition of individual and community well-being. We include local and national resources, individual and group programs and practices, and personal stories, videos, or songs that have something to teach us all. We are always seeking guest contributors!
If you have a wellness-themed topic you would like to share or learn more about, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Manager of Volunteer Participation
CommunityCare of Lyme
603-795-0603 (CCL office and help line)