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What Makes A Good Life?

As soon as I heard ‘7 Years Old‘ by Lukas Graham I knew it was going to be a number one. And on 18th February  guess what, it became number one! Little did I know when I heard the song it would also give a clue to a question that many have asked, ‘What makes a good life?’.

If you follow Make It Happen on social media you will see I posted 6 powerful messages within the song a couple of weeks back.

6 powerful messages in Lukas Graham’s new song “7 years old”

“I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure”

“It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger
Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker”

“I always had that dream like my daddy before me. So I started…”

“Most of my boys are with me
Some are still out seeking glory
And some I had to leave behind”

“Remember life and then your life becomes a better one”

“Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely”

It’s the last one that ties the song in with the question ‘What makes a good life?’

This week I discovered the Harvard Study of Adult Development. The study is one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life every carried out.

The study followed two groups of white men for 75 years, starting in 1938:

  • 268 Harvard university students as part of the “Grant Study” led by Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant.
  • 456 12- to 16-year-old boys who grew up in Boston as part of the “Glueck Study” led by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck.

The researchers surveyed the men about their lives (including the quality of their marriages, job satisfaction, and social activities) every two years and monitored their physical health (including chest X-rays, blood tests, urine tests, and echocardiograms) every five years.

They came away with one major finding:

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

1. Close relationships

The men in both groups of the Harvard study who reported being closer to their family, friends, or community tended to be happier and healthier than their less social counterparts. They also tended to live longer. By comparison, people who said they were lonelier reported feeling less happy. They also had worse physical and mental health, as defined above.

2. Quality (not quanity) of relationships

It’s not just being in a relationship that matters. Married couples who said they argued constantly and had low affection for one another (which study authors defined as “high-conflict marriages”) were actually less happy than people who weren’t married at all, the Harvard study found.

3. Stable, supportive marriages

Being socially connected to others isn’t just good for our physical health. It also helps stave off mental decline. People who were married without having divorced, separating, or having “serious problems” until age 50 performed better on memory tests later in life than those who weren’t, the Harvard study found.

And other research backs this up. A 2013 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that marriage, among other factors, was linked to a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

All of this suggests that strong relationships are critical to our health.

“Society places a lot of emphasis on wealth and ‘leaning in’ to our work, but over and over during 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.” Robert Waldinger said during his TED talk on the study (You can watch it here).

So what might leaning into a relationship look like for you?

Do you need to follow Lukas Graham’s advice and ‘Go make some friends…’?

Do you need to replace TV time with people people time?

Do you need to liven up a stale relationship by doing something new and exciting?

Do you need to reach out to a family member you haven’t spoken to in years?

Until next time… make it happen.

p.s. Have you downloaded my free ebook Staying Positive: 10 Simple Tips to Staying Positive? Click here to download it now!

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