The Number One Thing That Makes Us Happy In Life - Episode 4

Contrary to popular belief, it is not career achievement, money, exercise, or a healthy diet that keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer. An 85 year old study conducted by Harvard researchers found the most consistent factor that makes us happy in life is positive relationships. 

We cannot take relationships for granted. They require exercise to ensure they are healthy and balanced. This exercise is referred to as "social fitness." It involves taking stock of our relationships and being honest with ourselves about where we are devoting our time and attention. 

The study cites seven keystones of support in our relational lives:

  1. Safety and security: Who would you call if you woke up scared in the middle of the night? Who would you turn to in a moment of crisis?
  2. Learning and growth: Who encourages you to try new things, to take chances, to pursue your life’s goals?
  3. Emotional closeness and confiding: Who knows everything (or most things) about you? Who can you call on when you’re feeling low and be honest with about how you’re feeling?
  4. Identity affirmation and shared experience: Is there someone in your life who has shared many experiences with you and who helps you strengthen your sense of who you are?
  5. Romantic intimacy: Do you feel satisfied with the amount of romantic intimacy in your life?
  6. Help (both informational and practical): Who do you turn to if you need some expertise or help solving a practical problem (e.g., planting a tree, fixing your WiFi connection).
  7. Fun and relaxation: Who makes you laugh? Who do you call to see a movie or go on a road trip with who makes you feel connected and at ease?

It's never too late to deepen the connections that matter to us, and we should not hesitate to reach out to the people in our lives. With effort we can maintain strong social fitness, and live happier, longer. 


Waldinger, R. and Shultz, M. (2023). An 85-year Harvard study found the No. 1 thing that makes us happy in life: It helps us ‘live longer’. Retrieved from