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The “Big Secret” to being happy is right in front of you.

Our entire lives we receive words of wisdom from the people around us about how to be happy and balanced; and they are usually all different.  If you ask the Millennials, about 80% will say they crave money and fame.  But that’s not true for everyone.  Many of us struggle with the binding balance between advancing our careers and being the best parent or spouse.  And the good news is that money isn’t really the key to happiness, according to the experts.

A long time Harvard study that has been following two groups of men for nearly 75 years has some pretty good insight as to what it takes to be truly happy and healthy. One of the groups of men consisted of Harvard graduates, while the other were poor, disadvantaged youth from inner city Boston neighborhoods.  Every two years since 1930 researchers studied everything from their relationships and careers to their blood and brains.

Many of these men went into the War, while others went on to become doctors, lawyers, and even one president of the United States.  This group of men, who’s survivors are now in their 80s, have changed the way we look at what it truly takes to be happy and healthy.  What the research has shown us was that it didn’t matter where they were from or what they became as much as what types of relationships they formed.  Those who had strong bonds with family, friends, and their community lived happier, healthier, usually longer, and more fulfilled lives.  Individuals who experienced loneliness were most susceptible to illness and depression as well as declining brain function.  This study is one of the longest running studies ever done, and it’s still going.  Those 700 men that originally started it now have spouses and over 2000 children combined.

Researchers learned that strong support systems are the main reason why the happiest and healthiest individuals are such.  “Those good relationships don’t have to be smooth all the time,” Dr. Waldinger, study’s current director, said.  “Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker day in and day out.  But as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”  Listen to him explain even more:

So in a nutshell, remember that seeing your family at every holiday is not as important as knowing you can call home when you need to talk.  And hosting frequent parties is not as significant as having a couple close friends to help you get through your tough times.  Try to find meaning in your relationships and steer towards the ones that offer you the most support, mentally and emotionally.

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