Humans require love and connection, more than any other single ingredient, in order to live happy and fulfilling lives.
For more than three quarters of a century, the landmark Grant and Glueck study, led by researchers at Harvard University, has tracked the physical and emotional health of two populations:
- 456 poor people in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study)
- 268 graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939–1944 (the Glueck study)
While the study is still ongoing, principal researchers have shared many of the findings to date. Principal among them has been the observation that close, loving relationships, more than wealth, celebrity, social class, genetics, or any other factor, are at the core of what keeps people happy and physically healthy throughout their lives.
“Warmth of relationships throughout life has the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction,'” said George Vaillant, a principal investigator on the study. “Happiness is love. Full stop.”
The Harvard study is only one example from a wide boy of research on the central role of relationships in keeping us healthy and happy.
A second significant body of research indicates that it is possible – and indeed essential – to treat love, and relationship building, as skills that can be sustained and enhanced through hard work. There is, of course, no one simple formula or checklist for cultivating close, loving relationships – everyone is different, and loves differently. What matters most is that we seek out loving, healthy relationships in our own way and on our own terms, and that we recognize the need for ongoing work in this area of our lives.
Therefore, cultivate happiness in your life, and in the lives of those around you, the way a gardener cultivates her plants, providing them the nourishment they need in order to thrive.