What is the secret to happiness? Researchers at Harvard University have been tracking a group of people and their descendants since the 1938 in hopes of answering that very question.
"People who do the best, who are happiest and healthiest, maintain their relationships," Dr. Robert Waldinger, the study's Director at Harvard Medical School, said.
He said physical fitness is vital to health, but so is what’s called “social fitness.” The study shows, more than anything else, being close to others is what keeps people happy throughout their lives. And researchers said it's never too late to find that happiness.
"Our study shows us that people find friends, they find love, when they're sure it's never going to happen for them at all different points of their lives," Dr. Waldinger said.
He said a lot depends on whether you're intentional about making and nurturing good relationships. If you're looking to be happier, he said to take small steps.
"It doesn't have to be big. Think of somebody you miss. Somebody you'd like to connect with. Just send them a text. Send them an email saying 'Hi, I was thinking of you and just wanted to connect,'" he said.
Dr. Waldinger said social media can also help with happiness goals, but only if it's used to connect with others.
"If we passively consume somebody else's Instagram feeds, somebody else's happy pictures of beaches and parties, that's going to lower our self-esteem. it's going to make us feel like we're missing out on the good life, which isn't the truth," he said.
The researchers get data from the study’s participants by having them answer questionnaires every two years, reviewing their medical records every five years, and interviewing them face to face every 15 years.