What drives human happiness?
Carl Gustav Jung, in 1960 was once asked what makes people happy. Jung answered:
- “Good physical and mental health.”
- “Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.”
- “The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.”
- “Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.”
- “A philosophical or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.”
Like Jung, most people consider many things as factors for human happiness. In fact, when you ask the millennials, most of them would say that high paying job, education, and money make them happy.
But these things are not really the reasons for happiness. There’s a bigger and perhaps the most neglected picture.
The scientific study on human happiness
The Harvard University holds the longest happiness study in history. The study runs for more than seventy years now. 75 years to be exact. And the study asks only one question: what makes people happy?
At the beginning, there were more than 700 men participants. But due to deaths, 60 men and their Baby Boomer children are still in the study today.
So what really makes us happy? If you think it’s money, new job, new house, new car, you’re wrong. Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the director of the study found that:
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
But it’s not just about any relationship. It’s a quality relationship – a relationship that portraits love that gives fulfillment.
Waldinger added: “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, it’s the quality of your close relationships that matter.”
People, who have no quality relationships are lonely. Unfortunately, those people who are lonely suffer health decline early and die younger.
A good relationship can be found not only in marriage or in an intimate relationship, but also in social connections. Again, it does not depend on the number of friends you have, it’s how you cherish and enjoy the relationship.
The result of this study really conveys one lesson: we can’t live a happy life alone. We need other people especially our loved ones. We are social animals that enjoy each other’s company.
To learn more about the study, you can watch the Waldinger’s talk in the video below.
I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.