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

Some philosophers and thinkers have come up with the provocative idea that although happiness can be described as the most important goal of human life, really this is not an end goal, but a process.

Maybe that’s why it is worth studying what we call happiness using a wide angle for this, and maybe that’s why it makes sense to do research on this 75-year-long topic: the grant study.

Related article: “The 10 Keys to Happiness, According to Science”

Psychology applied to happiness

Until recently, applied psychology focused on the study of mental disorders and inappropriate behavior.

From the early behaviorists, who fundamentally wanted to turn children into machines to achieve the goals set by their parents, to direct disciples of Sigmund Freud, for whom virtually everyone had mental problems, this young science seemed to revolve around the most common idea. lesser harm: better to reduce the symptoms of this disorder than to let it express itself, better to devote time and effort to correcting these behaviors than to keep them expressing themselves, etc.

At the end of the 20th century, positive psychology made its appearance and has placed the study of happiness at the center of this process. However, long before that, one of the most interesting studies on what produces our well-being had already started. The Harvard University Grant Study, which began in 1938, has studied the development of a generation of adults in their 30s who were of college age for decades.

Nowadays, many of these volunteers are still alive and continue to come for interviews and medical exams journals to let researchers know how their health and outlook on life varies. In turn, some of the scientists who conducted the research during its early years of development are still alive and involved in the project, even though many generations have already gone through the management and direction of the study.

Seven decades of research combined into one idea

One of the main objectives of this research is be able to see with perspective what influences the development of our health and our perception of living a happy life. This is why one of the questions we tried to answer was: what makes us happy?

seconds Robert waldinger, The current director of this project, the answer is: warm and trusting social relationships. When examining the variables related to the perception of being happy, most of them refer to how we relate. Not only is it important to have many people who have been relied on throughout life: the quality of those relationships is also relevant, the extent to which we know we can trust them.

What makes us happy

Of course, there is always more that can be done. With 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 consider. We know them below.

1. Feeling lonely is associated with poor health

It doesn’t matter if a lot of people know our name and talk to us regularly: The feeling of loneliness is carried inside, and if it does appear, it is more likely that we will not reach the heights of happiness that we would like. In addition, we will tend to adopt less healthy lifestyle habits that will be detrimental to our health.

2. The importance of expressions of affection for childhood

Consistent with what psychologists like John Bowlby have found, having an education in which our parents sought affection for us is a surprisingly important factor that leaves a significant imprint on our psychological development into adulthood. Feeling helpless in our first years of life makes us look beyond happiness.

3. Social relationships are also useful

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

Bibliographical references:

  • Shenk, JW (2009). What makes us happy? Atlantic. Available at:

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