I was really excited to see a Ted talk by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger on a 75 year long Harvard Study of Adult Development, reported in the January 15th, 2016 World Tribune called How to Create a Good Life. He is the fourth director over the 75 years of the study.
The researchers studied 724 men to find out what makes a good, happy life. Some of the men went to Harvard and then into World War Two. Others came from some of the most troubled and disadvantaged families in Boston. Of the original 724, sixty are still living and are in their nineties.
All of these men were taught, as most of us are, that making lots of money or being famous would make for a happy, healthy life.
Researchers interviewed them in their homes over the years, got their medical records, drew their blood, scanned their brains and talked to their children and wives. It has been an exhaustive study, covering every aspect of their lives.
The lessons were startling and turned conventional wisdom on its head.
Making lots of money or being famous didn’t make anyone particularly happy.
The clearest message was that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period. Social connections are good for us and loneliness kills. The people who are more isolated find they are less happy, their health declines sooner and they live shorter lives.
The quality of those relationships matters. Living in the middle of conflict is bad for our health, where a good, warm relationship is protective. A good relationship can buffer us against the pains of aging. People in good relationships reported that even though they might have pain they were still happy, while people in unhappy relationships reported more physical pain.
The study also found that good relationships also protect our brains. When people felt they could count on another person in time of need, they stayed sharper, longer.
Guidelines for making Your Relationship Bloom
This article tied in beautifully with the study material from February Living Buddhism 2016 which had guidelines for creating a harmonious family.
1. Our own human revolution is the key to achieving family harmony
2. Have and express deep appreciation for everyone around you.
3. Show appreciation for your parents, that they gave you life, even if problematic in other ways.
4. Accept others for who they are, and don’t have perfectionistic expectations of them.
5. If you have a problematic relationship it will be important to break through the karma that led you into it. Then even if you separate, you won’t have to experience the same kind of suffering in the future.
6. Make an effort to appreciate your spouse. Don’t point out their faults.
7. Happiness is built on patience, perseverance and steady efforts. To expect happiness without this kind of investment in the relationship is an illusion.
6 Ideas: How to Chant for a Good Relationship
Using our Buddhist chanting practice to work in this direction, will move you towards having the kind of good warm relationships which lead to a long, happy, healthy life. Here are some thoughts on ways to chant.
- Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of the other person
- Chant to become aware of what you need to change for the relationship to work better.
- Chant to break through any relationship karma
- Chant for a resolution to tension and conflict.
- Chant to be able to say thank you and to show appreciation.
- Chant to be able to accept your family members as they are.
Using the practice in this way you will come to establish the kinds of relationships which promote a long, happy life. To hear the Ted talk go to http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness.
To read the guidelines from Living Buddhism go to https://portal.sgi-usa.org/portal/subscription.