People with better quality relationships live longer, are happier, healthier (and even earn more money). Such is the conclusion drawn from over 75 years of research from Harvard University. George Vaillant, who directed the research for more than three decades until 2003, put it simply, “Happiness is Love. Full stop.”
Many would agree that personal relationships are more important, yet they often take second place to professional dreams, ambitions, or to other life demands that become more pressing. “I’m sorry, something came up at work, can we skip dinner tonight?” “No time to talk now, busy busy busy…”
It’s quite straight forward then, right? If we want to look back at our lives and feel the warm trickle of life satisfaction drooling from a wise content smile, we must invest time in our relationships now.
In his Ted talk, the 4th program director of the Grand and Gleuk study said that there were three main findings:
- “The first is that social connections are really good for us,and that loneliness kills.”
- “The second is that it’s not about the number of friends that we have or whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters” (sic).
- “And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our healthis that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains”.
It makes sense, we are social animals built to be in groups – our innate desire to love and be loved gives us evolutionary advantage; keeps us protected; helps us accomplish more. But what can we do to find connection?
- Make time for the people in your life. Bearing in mind, that you can be lonely in a group and lonely in a relationship, so be present and ‘really in’ these moments.
- Take time for introspection. Learn about yourself, explore your values and make conscious actions in your relationships that are in line with your value system.
- Train to be better with relationships. We train for our career, or for a better body, why not for better relationships?
- If you want a deeper level of connection, be open and have the courage to allow yourself to be ‘seen’.
- Fear of rejection is one of the biggest inhibitors of connection, be in the stretch zone, take a risk and realise that people’s behaviours are about them, not you.
Working in the business of love, matchmaking and coaching those lucky in wealth for the last 6 years, I have met the 70 year olds who lived the dream with all the money in the world – huge yachts, private jets, staff to look after their homes, fast cars, designer clothes, prestige and the lot. But often what they regret are the lost relationships.
Sociologist Dr Brene Brown says that “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone’. Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help’. The truth is that we are both.”