The Harvard Grant Study, followed 268 Harvard students for 75 years, collecting data on their lives. What is impressive is that the conclusions about happiness were the same for all participants.
The answer to happiness seems simple, but it’s scientifically true: healthy relationships are the key to a happy and fulfilling life.
The study’s most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships, said the principal researcher, George Vaillant. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (“Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.”).
The good news is, we can always change the quality of our relationships and our life. The study showed that regardless of how we begin life, we can all become happier. Whether you have faced a difficult childhood, divorce or death, you always have the choice to make your situation better and begin building strong loving relationships in life – whether with family, close friends or a significant other.
Whether single, divorced or widowed, what mattered most was not a person’s relationship status, career success or wealth but rather the quality and warmth of a person’s relationships, regardless of the type or status of those relationships.
A man named Godfrey Minot Camille went into the Grant study with fairly bleak prospects for life satisfaction: He had the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
Vaillant’s key takeaway, in his own words: “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ”
What can we learn from the world’s longest study on happiness? Strong, loving relationships are the answer to happiness. And it’s never too late to find happiness.
*To hear an awesome Ted Talk on the Study, click here: Ted Talk Harvard Happiness Study.