It's no secret: our relationships matter. This idea may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget.
Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
Researchers have been studying happiness for many years. Everyone wants to know how to be happier, and we wonder if there's a hidden secret that science can discover for us.
Recently an 80-year Harvard study, the longest study ever done on the subject of happiness, made a conclusion that probably shouldn't surprise us: “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.” Strong bonds with loved ones, the study found, “protect people from life's discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, (intelligence) or even genes.” (See Liz Mineo, “Good Genes Are Nice, but Joy is Better,” Harvard Gazette, April 11, 2017, online at news.harvard.edu.
It's no secret: our relationships matter. This idea may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget. Life has a way of isolating us. Sometimes it's busyness that interferes with our relationships. Sometimes it's jealousy or some perceived offense. We might feel that we have been treated unkindly or unfairly. This can lead to anger and resentment, further damaging the relationships that promote happiness.
To make matters worse, social media and other technologies have made many of those relationships more virtual than real. Through the filter of social media, we see people only in part, and we might wonder why our lives aren't as successful or happy as everyone else's life seems to be. And so we become anxious and unhappy.
How can we push those negative feelings down when we feel them taking root in our hearts? How can we value and nurture the relationships that make us truly happy?
We might need to take a break from social media and reconnect with the loved ones around us. We might need to remember that what we see of others' lives isn't ever the full story. We might need to forgive — and ask for forgiveness. And we might need to focus less on what we lack and more on the goodness and blessings that fill our lives every day.
Money, fame and social status come and go; they make for a shaky foundation for life. Instead, build your life on loving relationships, and they will be the bedrock of lasting happiness.