Never Give Up On Happiness
August 21, 2013

Never Give Up On Happiness

So many of us search for happiness. We look in all the nooks and crannies of the world for just a glimpse at happiness. And for many, that search leads to happiness in and of itself. We want happiness so much that we do not hesitate to seek it out, to study it, to want it. Harvard was so interested in the search for happiness that they did the unthinkable; they actually studied 268 males for 75 years, beginning in 1938 according to a Huffington Post article. The study was called the Harvard Grant Study.

Before moving on with what the researchers found, I would be remiss if I did not point out what is likely the obvious: no women were studied. However, as the Huff Post says, “it provides an unrivaled glimpse into a subset of humanity, following 268 male Harvard undergraduates from the classes of 1938-1940 (now well into their 90s) for 75 years, collecting data on various aspects of their lives at regular intervals. And the conclusions are universal.” After reading up on some of these conclusions, I feel confident that the Huffington Post is right…they probably are universal. Still, it would be nice to have a study on females, too.

So, what are those conclusions? Well, the article included five of them along with brief explanations from George Vaillant, the Harvard psychologist who directed the study from 1972-2004. Vaillant wrote a book about the findings of the Grant Study. Let’s take a look at the five lessons to a happier, more meaningful life.

1) Love, Love, Love

So, it turns out John Lennon and Paul McCartney were right; all you need is love. Love is one of the two pillars of happiness (with finding a way of coping with life that does not push away love as the other). Love is the key to happiness, to a fulfilling life, to everything. Of all the study’s findings, the most important is that relationships matter most in life. No matter how much money, power, or prestige one has, none of it matters without love. That is pretty beautiful.

2.) More to Life than Money and Power

Well, duh! We have long known from experience, as well as other research, that money and power do not bring happiness automatically. In fact, I would offer that money and power often bring more headaches than anything else. Of course, that is not always the case, but movie after movie and song after song show us that pop culture is even on board with this.

The study recognized that money and power in the form of traditional career successes still matter, but they do not correlate to greater happiness. As the first lesson explains, if money and power push love away, then happiness eludes us.

3) It does not matter where you came from, only where you are.

The third life lesson on happiness that the Grant Study found is that no matter where we start life, we can become happier. The best example is Godfrey Minot Camille. As the Huffington Post explains, “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.” Vaillant simplifies why: Camille spent his life in the pursuit of love. So, we go back to #1 above, again. It’s all about love.

4) Connection is Crucial

Along with love comes the need to connect. Strong relationships were the best predictor of life satisfaction. And doesn’t that make sense? If love is what happiness is all about, then naturally connecting and relationships go hand-in-hand with love, right? “The Grant Study provides strong support for the growing body of research that has linked social ties with longevity, lower stress levels and improved overall well-being.”

5) Challenges are Necessary

The ways we deal with and learn from challenges further contribute to our ability to move from the narcissism of youth to connections. Moreover, challenges are often dealt with through creative expression.

To end an already uplifting article, the Huffington Post has a slide show of 10 Habits of Optimists, so I will list those here for you:

  1. Have Gratitude
  2. Share Your Stories
  3. Forgive
  4. Be a Better Listener
  5. Turn Envy and Jealousy into Energy
  6. Smile More, Frown Less
  7. Exercise, Eat A Healthy Diet, and Take In Vitamin D
  8. Be a Positive Forward Thinker
  9. Stop Blaming Others
  10. Understand that the Past is Not a Blueprint for the Future

All of this is definitely good, heartening advice. I love when I stumble onto articles like this. They remind me, and hopefully by writing about it I am reminding you, just what is important in life: love…cause it’s all you need.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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