Robert Waldinger is the 4th director The Harvard study. During this study 724 men from two groups were studied for an amazing 75 years. One of the groups were from Harvard and they finished collage during World War 2, the other group was from the poorest neighborhoods of Boston.
Robert goes on to say that the clearest message they have learnt through this amazing study is that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. He also says that the men that felt isolated or had high conflight relationships were less happy and lived shorter lives. The better the results were found in the higher quality of relationships rather than the number of relationships they had. They even saw these good relationships protecting their brains to a certain degree.
So, prioritizing and maintain good relationships are key in finding happiness.
Another thing we need to prioritize is finding what we love and making sure we spend time doing that thing. According to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi “A person can make himself happy or miserable regardless of what is actually happening “outside” just by changing the contents of consciousness.” One of the best ways to do this is with Flow.
What is flow really?
It is the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. There is no attention left over to think about anything else or to worry about problems. Time becomes distorted. It is an amazing feeling. You do not overthink and worry.
Czikszentmihalyi believes that the characteristics involved in flow experiences
- Distorted perception of time. Time passes fast, even though you feel like it is slowed.
- Lack of self-consciousness. So, absorbed in the activity that you have no more capacity to judge yourself.
- Intense focus on the present moment.
- Nothing else matters
So, when do we experience flow?
Flow is found in the sweet spot between anxiety (opponent far better than you) and boredom (opponent far worse than you.) Best scenario when your opponent is just slightly better than you.
Therefore, it is so important to find what we love and keep working on it. The ideal scenario would be that your job/occupation creates flow. As you spend so many hours doing it. Sometimes this is not always possible. I then recommend finding a few hours a week to complete a hobby or activity that create flow.
If FLOW is one of the secrets to being happy then what is holding us back?
Chasing superiority and comparing ourselves to others. We do this without even realizing. We seek others approval to justify our actions and our decisions.
As humans, mastering something is important. But how do we measure ourselves? Again, the easiest way is to compare we is to others. The most damage tends to come when we compare with others closest to us. This alienates us and damages that human connection we crave to be happy. Often damaging those relationships that we so badly need to be happy.
Sonja Lyubomirsky says in her book the “The How of happiness “Envy is a happiness killer” she explains how we cannot be happy and envious at the same time.
Sonja also says that about 50% of our happiness is based on our genetics. About 10% of our happiness is based on our life circumstances and about 40% is based on intentional activity. Just showing us that the way we think and behave is so much more important than “being rich “or “famous”.
Want to be happy?
Focus on building good relationships. Find what you love and try do it as much as possible. Spend time on intentional activity like gratitude and giving. Live your life in the present and stay optimistic