What does it mean to have a happy life?
Is it all about doing what you want, when you want, and making no apologies for living your best life? Or is it more about taking care of yourself, depriving yourself, and honoring your body?
What will make you happier in the long run? According to George E. Valliant’s book Aging Well from the Harvard study on Adult Development, there are six keys to a happier life. How many of these are you hitting?
DON’T DO THESE TWO THINGS
In the study, excessive smoking lead to premature death. Smoking was ten times more frequent among the “prematurely dead” than among the “happy-well.” If you ever needed the motivation to quit, this could be it.
The study shows that the simplest route is, in fact, the right one. Do the things you’re supposed to do to stay happy and healthy, and you will be.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CERTAIN PEOPLE
Studies showed that a warm, loving childhood often leads to a happy person that ages well. But, you can undo a negative childhood by surrounding yourself with warm and loving people. “It is not the bad things that happen to us that doom us; it is the good people who happen to us at any age that facilitate enjoyable old age…” George summarized.
EDUCATION IS EVERYTHING
In the study, the health of educated and non-educated people of the same age were compared. The physical health of people who hadn’t received a higher education was the same as those who were Harvard educated but ten years older, which is shocking.
But when the study compared college-educated people with Harvard educated people, their physical health was the same, they both had a happy, healthy life, and the one similarity they had was that they were higher educated.
WORK ON YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Your emotional intelligence will make you happier and healthier in old age. The more social connections you have as you get older, the better you will age. Work hard on keeping your connections going and make new friends as often as possible.
When the author was asked to summarize the results of this study, he simply said, “Happiness is love. Full stop.” Simple, surround yourself with your friends and family and make sure to enjoy every moment.
LEARN THESE FOUR STRATEGIES
When you’re faced with difficult people, or a difficult situation, how you cope in the moment determines how happy you are. There are four mature coping strategies that will make you happier in the long-term.
The first is resolving the conflict and fixing the issue, the second is always doing to others what you would like done to you, the third is trying to see the bright side, and the fourth is not taking yourself too seriously. If you embrace these behaviors when something goes wrong, even if it is someone else’s fault, try to frame it a different way, you’ll feel happier and more in control of your own emotions.
BE GENEROUS WITH YOUR TIME
The study showed how generous people are with their time significantly impacts how they age and how happy they feel. Being a consultant, guide, mentor, or coach can help you build your own happiness. If you’re generous with your time and your knowledge, you will become happier, healthier, and (added bonus) age better!
So, to sum up, this is how you make your life amazing:
1. Avoid smoking and drinking too much
2. Learn something new every week and surround yourself with smart, ambitious people
3. Have a happy childhood or repair a difficult one with happy, well-adjusted people.
4. Build a good life and then give back to the community.
5. Cope with things in a mature way.
6. Build better relationships and nurture your friendships.