In 1938, researchers at Harvard began what was to become the longest and most comprehensive study of health and happiness in history. The Grant Study.
Following 268 Harvard undergrads, who were deemed physically and emotionally healthy, and most likely to have happy and successful lives, this study checked in on them every couple of years, tracking and reviewing a range of factors in the men's lives, from their intelligence levels, to their relationships, their income and even their alcohol use. The findings are nothing short of amazing.
"Happiness is Love. Full stop."
So says Dr. George Vaillant, the Harvard researcher who led the study from 1972 to 2004. Love, it seems, is the one and only key to happiness. He further says that there are two "pillars" to happiness: "One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."
Those who turned to alcohol abuse as a means of coping, for example, had the highest rates of divorce, illness and subsequent unhappiness.
Happy people earn more. But money doesn't determine happiness.
Those in the study who scored highest on the early-life happiness metrics earned an average of $141,000 a year more at their peak salaries, which was between 55 and 60 years old. Interestingly, however, it is not money that made them happy. Vaillant says that having a meaningful connection to your work is more important than the actual amount of money you earn. Even higher intelligence levels don't help people achieve greater levels of happiness.
Happiness can be achieved at anytime in your life.
For those study participants who faced hard situations during their lives, the ones who were able to find coping mechanisms that transformed their challenges into learning and growing experiences, were actually able to reverse their levels of unhappiness and find happiness once again. Even those who faced decades of unhappiness and depression were able to change and become happy.
This shows us that even sustained periods of change, hardship and stress can be neutralized and inverted to happiness. They key is to embrace love and find ways to cope without alcohol abuse or other destructive methods that push those we love further away.
"Love never fails."
The entire 13th chapter of First Corinthians tells us all we need to know about love. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love is patient, and it is kind. And love never fails. So it seems that everything I've ever known to be true, is indeed proven true by science.