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The science of happiness: 75 years of studies show these conclusions

The science of happiness: 75 years of studies show these conclusions

January 22, 2021

Some philosophers and thinkers have proposed the provocative idea that, although happiness could be qualified as the most important goal of the life of human beings, really this is not a final goal, but a process .

Maybe that's why it is worth studying what we call happiness using a wide-angle lens, and maybe that's why it makes sense to do a research on it that lasts 75 years: the Grant Study.

Related article: "The 10 keys to be happy, according to science"

Psychology applied to happiness

Until not so long ago, applied psychology focused on the study of mental disorders and inappropriate behavioral patterns.


From the early behaviorists, who basically wanted to turn children into machines to meet the goals set by their parents, including the direct disciples of Sigmund Freud, for whom practically all people had mental problems, this young science seemed to orbit around the idea of ​​the lesser evil: better to mitigate the symptoms of this disorder than to let it be expressed, better to spend time and effort in correcting these behaviors than to continue expressing them, etc.

At the end of the 20th century positive psychology made an appearance and placed the study of happiness in the central axis of this approach . However, much earlier had already begun one of the most interesting studies on what produces us well-being. The Grant Study of Harvard University, started in 1938, has been investigating for decades the development of a generation of adults who in the 30s were of college age.


Today, Many of these volunteers are still alive and continue to go for interviews and medical exams newspapers to let researchers know how their health and their way of seeing life are changing. In turn, some of the scientists who drove the research during its first years of development are still alive and involved in the project, although many generations have already passed through the management and direction of the study.

Seven decades of research condensed into an idea

One of the main objectives of this research is to be able to see with perspective that which influences the development of our health and our perception of living a happy life . That is why one of the questions that has been tried to answer has been: what is it that makes us happy?

According Robert Waldinger , the current director of this project, the answer is: warm social relationships based on trust . When examining the variables that are related to the perception of being happy, most of them refer to the way in which we relate. Not only does it matter to have many people with whom you have been able to count throughout your life: the quality of these relationships is also relevant, the degree to which we know we can trust them.


What makes us happy

Of course you can always specify more. Within the idea that friendly and to some extent intimate social relationships are good for both our health and our level of happiness, There are several nuances to keep in mind . We know them below.

1. Feeling alone is associated with poor health

It does not matter if many people know our name and usually speak with us: the feeling of loneliness is carried inside, and if it appears, it is more possible that we will not reach the levels of happiness we would like. In addition, we will tend to lead less healthy life habits that will harm our health.

2. The importance of signs of affection in childhood

In line with what psychologists such as John Bowlby discovered, having had a parenting in which our parents gave us affection is a surprisingly important factor that leaves an important mark on our psychological development when we reach adulthood. Having felt helpless during our first years of life makes us see happiness farther .

3. Social relationships are also useful

Having a good relationship with people is not only pleasant and it stimulates us psychologically improving our mental health: it is also associated with having more opportunities for professional success and intellectual development , which in turn is linked to the degree of happiness we feel.

Bibliographic references:

  • Shenk, J. W. (2009). What makes us happy? The Atlantic. Available at: //www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/06/what-makes-us-happy/307439/

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger (January 2021).


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