Social wellness can be defined as being able to interact positively with people around us. It involves using good communication skills, having meaningful relationships, respecting oneself and others, and having a support system of friends and family. How do you know if you have high social wellness? It does not mean you will always be positive and happy every single day, but you have the necessary resources of communication skills and a great support system to help you get through the hard times. Have you ever really thought about what makes you genuinely happy?
If you are looking for the key to happiness, look no further! A group of scientists began tracking the health of 269 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression to hopefully find out what leads to living a happy and healthy life. This longitudinal study became known as the “Grant Study.” Researchers also conducted a follow-up cohort study in the 1970s of 456 disadvantaged, non-delinquent youths that grew up in the inner cities of Boston.
In the Grant Study, researchers found that good relationships are the answer. “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed” (Mineo 2017).
The saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” is reflected in this study’s results. Fulfilling their lives with family, friends, and community helped delay mental and physical decline for the men, and it was an even better predictor of living a happy and long life than social class, IQ, or genes. “Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were” (Mineo 2017).
Watching Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk on this longitudinal study can give you a better understanding of this research. A takeaway message from Waldinger (2015) is, “Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
Now that we know our relationships are key to living a happy and healthy life, what are the protective factors that contribute to that? Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who joined the research team for the Grant Study, identified six factors:
- Physical activity
- Absence of alcohol abuse
- They do not smoke
- Ability to cope well with stress
- Keeping a healthy and stable weight
- Having a stable marriage
We all can say that sometimes life gets crazy and we let ourselves get caught up in it. We pour more of our time into our work lives instead of our time with family and friends. When was the last time you saw your college friends? High school friends? Have you ever interacted with your coworkers outside of work? Sometimes all it takes is a simple “Hey, want to grab lunch tomorrow?” to really brighten someone’s day. We all know that it feels good when someone reaches out to us, but sometimes we must make the first move.
According to AARP Staying Sharp (2017), a 2016 research study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that healthy interactions reduce inflammation and blood pressure. This leads to an instant relaxation and a great way to reduce stress from the endorphins being produce. Also, the endorphins find a way to tolerate your aches and pains. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a friend and go to your favorite coffee shop, take a walk, or hit the gym!