How to grow old happy and healthy?
We all want to grow old healthy and happy. Yet not all of that is given to all of us. By an unhealthy lifestyle, we reduce the chance that our wish will come true. Others are simply unlucky or may get an accident. Factors you can't influence. Research proves that it is not bad luck or the choice for an unhealthy lifestyle that allows us to grow old, healthy and happy, or not. There is something much simpler and more fundamental that is the foundation of this.
If you now have the choice to invest in your future best yourself so that you can grow old happily and healthily? What would you spend your energy and time on?
A recent American study among millennials showed that 80% strives for wealth. Of that 80%, 50% also wanted to become famous. According to them, that would be the key to healthy and happy aging. We seem to live in a society where performance, hard work, status, and fame, is the most important thing you can aspire to. How wrong can we be?
The Harvard Study of Adult Development | Research on Happiness
In 1938, a group of researchers began to keep track of the lives of 724 men. The men were divided into two groups. One group studied at Harvard and the other group consisted of children and young men from the poorest neighborhoods of Boston.
Each year, the men were mentally and physically examined and the research is still ongoing. Robert Waldinger is the fourth director of the research, and there are still 60 men alive who are surveyed every year. This is presumably the longest-running research in the world.
The question the researchers wanted to answer is how to live a happy and healthy life and which factors can influence this. The conclusions after more than 80 years of research are astonishing.
How do you get old, healthy and happy? The research shows that more than any other factor, having good relationships plays by far the most important role in your life to grow old healthily and happily. The researchers of The Harvard Study of Adult Development came to many conclusions in their now tens of thousands of pages of research. Three of these can be proven beyond doubt.
1. Social contacts keep us healthier and happier.
Social contacts keep us physically and mentally more vital while loneliness slowly makes us die. People who are more socially connected with family, friends and the community are happier, healthier and live longer.
Lonely people, on the other hand, are less happy, their health deteriorates faster and their brain activity deteriorates faster.
A disturbing note is that 1 in 5 Americans say they are more or less lonely.
In the context of the researchers, social engagement does not mean how many friends you have. You can be very lonely in a group of people and even in your marriage, you can be lonely. For the researchers, it is about the quality of your connection with your social contacts.
2. Living in a conflict environment is bad for your health.
Living in a marriage where there is daily conflict has harmful consequences for your physical and mental condition. The researchers looked at their data to see if they could predict what life would look like from the age of 50 onwards.
It turned out that it was not the cholesterol or other consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle that was the most important factor determining health or happiness. Those who were most happy in their relationship and with their social connections were the happiest and healthiest at the age of 80.
The researchers note that it is not a question of never arguing. It's about relationships where you know you can trust each other and build upon each other.
3. Healthy relationships have a positive effect on our brains.
People who have good relationships and thus maintain a strong connection with their social network have a better and sharper memory. They remember far more details and are also more resilient to setbacks and stress.
How do you get good social contacts?
The wisdom of getting happier and healthier from good social contacts is not new. It is only through Harvard's research that it has finally been proven with figures. But how do you ensure good relationships and social contacts?
A few examples that contribute to good relationships and social contacts are:
- Replace screen time with time for friends.
- Do together with your partner occasionally something new that you wouldn't otherwise do
- Contact that family member you haven't spoken to in a long time.
- Do again what you used to enjoy such as: singing, playing a game or picking up your old hobbies again.
The final conclusion: You build a good life by having good relationships. Not by striving for financial wealth or fame.