The secret to happiness: trust and relationships, says Harvard study

According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, to be happy you need to surround yourself with at least two trustworthy people who you can turn to in times of need.

In a world increasingly fast-paced and interconnected, the secret to happiness might be simpler than we think. According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger of Harvard University, it boils down to maintaining close relationships. The findings from his study suggest that having at least two trusted individuals in one’s life, to whom one can turn in times of need, is key to finding joy and contentment.

The importance of sharing both stress and minor worries

Waldinger emphasized the significance of sharing both moments of high stress and everyday concerns with others. This form of social interaction is crucial for the mind and body to regain emotional balance. Conversely, loneliness can elevate stress levels and adversely affect overall health, making the pursuit of happiness even more challenging.

Expanding one’s social circle and nurturing friendships is crucial

The research underscores the pivotal role of interpersonal relationships in leading a fulfilled and emotionally sound life. In an era where many prioritize material aspects such as wealth or fame, the individuals interviewed for the study placed their happiness in meaningful relationships, such as being a supportive parent or a guiding friend.

Waldinger referenced a study by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, which suggests that 50% of happiness is determined by genetics, while the remaining 50% is influenced by factors within our control. This indicates that, despite genetic predispositions, individuals have the capacity to shape their happiness through their actions and the relationships they nurture.

Participants in the study were asked to list individuals they would call in the middle of the night during an emergency. Although some were unable to name even two people, Waldinger highlighted the importance of expanding one’s social circle and fostering deeper friendships over time, challenging the common belief that relationships can remain strong without effort.

Source: Harvard Second Generation Study

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