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I want you to think of one thing that could make you happy over the course of your life.
And not like tacos or Harry Potter, something that could actually sustain your happiness
for many years. You can say anything you like, but to measure it scientifically we would
have to study you at regular intervals for most of your life. Luckily, that study has
already been done.
The Harvard Grant study began in 1938 and it followed 268 male undergraduate students
for more than 70 years. It planned to track them over their entire lives, so it measured
a whole bunch of psychological and physical traits, like personality, IQ and the function
of their major organs. Because it was so huge it had so many findings. Like your financial
success is more dependent on the warmth of relationships than intelligence. And cigarette
smoking was the single greatest factor that contributed to the men’s death.
When George Vaillant, the lead researcher of the study for more than 30 years, was asked
what was the single greatest finding from it, he said, “It was the capacity for intimate
relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives...Happiness
is love."
What these 70 odd years of research suggest is that... love is all you need. But it doesn’t
necessarily mean having a long relationship or marriage with a partner.
The study looked at the men’s relationship with their parents and how it affected them
over the course of their lives. Men who had a warm relationship with their mother as a
child earned an average of $87,000 a year more than men who had an uncaring mothers.
And those with an uncaring mother were more likely to develop dementia later in life.
The warmth of the men's relationships with their fathers was correlated with enjoying
vacations more and greater life satisfaction at age 75.
The findings are super interesting, of course correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Another researcher, John Gottman, set up “The Love Lab” in the 80s, where he asked newlyweds
to speak about their relationship while he measured things like their heart rate and
how much sweat they produced. He observed two groups, the “masters,” who spoke calmly
about their partner and stayed married, and the “disasters,” who eventually broke
up. When the disasters spoke about their partner they were in fight-or-flight mode, they had
a fast heart beat and produced a greater amount of sweat. When they thought about their partner
it was like they were being approached by an ill-tempered sea bass.
Of course these people were open to intimate relationships… just the one they were in
was a disaster.
From his decades of research, Gottman suggests lasting relationships come down to two basic
traits: kindness and generosity.
And if, like the Harvard Grant study suggests, our relationships with our family are so important
to our happiness and life satisfaction, offering more kindness and generosity in those is surely
beneficial.
So it seems being open to love is all you need.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments and if you don’t already, show a bit of
love and subscribe to BrainCraft. I have a new episode out every Thursday.
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Is Love All You Need?

1067 Folder Collection
林曉玉 published on April 24, 2015
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