This Is the Secret to a Happy Life, According to Harvard Research

Learn about the secret to a happy life (according to Harvard research) in this guide. Audio version available here. Discover what the key to happiness is according to Harvard scientists.

Connecting with others has a big impact on our lives, you know that already. But it turns out the impact it has might me a lot more than we imagined. So much so that it might actually be the most important factor when it comes to determining our happiness levels. 

This was the finding of a major Harvard study. The study found that connection is more important in determining our happiness levels than nearly every other factor, including wealth, and health. This means that connections and quality relationships have more of an impact on our happiness levels than being, say, richer and/or healthier.

So, it turns out that out personal connections play a vital role in our overall happiness and emotional well-being.

But it’s not just any type of connection that’ll do the trick – the quality of the connection is crucial. Superficial connections make very little difference to ones happiness and quality of life. 

Let’s dig deeper into this. 

Keep reading to learn about the secret to a happy life, according to Harvard research
Keep reading to learn about the secret to a happy life, according to Harvard research

Quality over quantity

These days most people get really hung up over how many followers they have on social media – it’s almost like a status symbol. Here’s the thing though, having hundreds or thousands or even millions of followers on social media mean absolutely nothing when it comes to feeling genuinely happy as the goal for fame and followers might lead to financial success and boost your ego, but what it does not do is create genuine connections. 

Genuine connections require genuine bonds with people – that’s nearly impossible to do on social media (especially if your primary goal is to gain thousands or even more followers).

Even if you genuinely want to connect to them it’s just not practical – social media channels aren’t really designed to form deep bonds. They might have been, initially. However, that’s not really their purpose anymore. These days social media is, at best, a good source of up to date information on things you are interested in, information that is geared to get people to click and buy and generate revenue for the platforms in question, like how Facebook is the most prominent advertising channel these days.

The others aren’t far behind – Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Youtube have all jumped on the advertising wagon…

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Creating genuine connections virtually

But does that mean that you can’t form deep connections with others online?

Of course not.

You absolutely can form deep bonds and connections with people online. Online dating is a great example of this very point. People are forming deep relationships on digital platforms nowadays, connections that are even leading to long term relationships and even marriages – all based off of deep connections formed virtually. 

So deep connections can be formed virtually – it’s simply a matter of how much work is put into it, because forming deep connections take work. They don’t happen in a few minutes, which is the usual time span of an average social media engagement. 

My favourite form of communication has always been talking with people face to face. When it comes to electronic communication, phone is my primary preference, with emails being my second favourite. They both (phone calls and emails) enable you to have proper conversations with people.

Better of course is real, live interaction – like a face to face meeting and conversation, because with those you can communicate better and connect better especially since a huge part of our communication happens non-verbally (through body language), and those nuances are completely missed when you communicate electronically. 

But even there you have a great option in video calls. With Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and even Google getting into the online video call offerings, it’s now easier than ever to connect with people virtually over video calls. That’s especially useful during these times of social distancing and reduced connectivity because of the Coronavirus situation.

With video calls you can safely connect with others, and have genuine, deep conversations without having to worry about leaving your house. 

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The difference quality connections make

Here is a great example of what a difference quality connection can make – one of my all time favourite travel destinations is Orkney in the Shetland Islands.

If you haven’t been there let me tell you, it’s a decent place but it is not the most scenic of places. You might even say that it’s a bit of a dark place – or maybe that’s just how it is during winter which is when I went there. My point is, I’ve been to places that are way more scenic and pretty than Orkney but Orkney still ranks higher than most of those places – in fact it’s in my top three.

So why is that so, why is Orkney so memorable for me?

Why did it have such an impact on me?

It’s because of the people I met there, or more specifically, because of the quality of the connections I had. The residents of Orkney, the few that I met anyway, were some of the nicest and most genuine people I have met to date. They were warm, and friendly, and just genuinely nice. I think I spent more time there talking with people than I did checking out the area! But the quality of the people made quite an impact on me.

And I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences too.

No matter what you do, be it travel or something else, your whole experience of the activity will level up when you have good quality connection. Think back to the most fondest memories you have and I’m sure you’ll find this to be the case.

Quality connections matter a lot. 

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Transactional connections and the secret to a happy life
Transactional connections and the secret to a happy life

Move away from transactional connections

This reminds me of another experience. 

Years ago I went to a networking event where I came across a very interesting young woman – she was clearly driven, and you’ll understand why I say that in a minute. So there I was talking with some people and then suddenly, like a gust of wind, this young woman approaches the group, says hello, hands each of us her business card, and then leaves. 

She left as abruptly as she came. 

We then watched her for a bit doing the same thing to the others in the room, and let me tell you, no one in the group was impressed.

What she did isn’t actually that uncommon in the business world – it’s a version of a networking strategy called working the room, although a crude form of the strategy.

What she did was effective in terms of spreading her card to the most number of people, but ultimately was it really effective? I seriously doubt that, because I didn’t keep her card – she was intriguing but not because she made a good impression. 

You see people, especially in business, sometimes forget to prioritise quality over quantity. But carpet-bombing tactics like that are superficial and actually cause more harm than good because they create a negative impression. People do business with people they like after all.

This is not just true for business – this applies to every other area of life too. 

It’s easy to see relationships with anyone other than your immediate friends and family as functional or even transactional, but that ultimately doesn’t create a good connection. We all like genuine connections – the people you meet with are people just like you, so why not treat them with more authenticity, respect and kindness?

That’s what you’d expect, right? 

Rather than focusing on what you might be getting out of the interaction, focus on the connection. Trust me, when you connect with people with genuine curiosity, authenticity, kindness and for the sole sake of connecting, you will have a much better experience than if you do it with an agenda.

No one likes people with agendas – you don’t, and you can be certain that anyone you are meeting with does not either. 

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. 

How to get started on the secret to a happy life
How to get started on the secret to a happy life

Getting started

So how can you get started?

Here are some tips to help you build genuine connections and bonds. 

Treat the people you meet with respect, authenticity and curiosity.

No one likes fake people.

On the other hand, everyone likes people who are genuinely curious about them.

Remembering those three will help you greatly in terms if building genuine connections. 

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude, being mindful and paying it forward is also useful when it comes to developing quality connections.

There are 2 more things I’d like you to note when in comes to connecting with others (to help you connect better):

  1. Expectations – The first point is about having expectations. You can’t form genuine connections with people if you’re focusing on what you’ll get out of the connection, or the person. You can’t focus on expectations. Just connect for the sole sake of connecting, without any expectations. If it leads to something great, great. If not, that’s ok too. But you can’t know how a connection will play out in the future until you actually connect. 
  2. Toxic people – The second point is about toxic people. Connecting with others is great, but there is one caveat I’d like you to keep in mind, a word of caution of sorts. Connect with people by all means, but avoid people who are toxic. You might not know right away who is toxic and who is not but often it becomes obvious pretty fast. When it does, avoid that connection. Some people, unfortunately, are too stuck in toxic negativity and often drag others down with them. So for the sake of your own sanity and self care, keep an eye out for this. Connect expecting the best but if the person is toxic, remove yourself from that connection

The main takeaway

All said and done, if there’s just one thing you take away from today’s guide, remember this:

Always prioritise the quality of connections over quantity.

Because quality connections, ultimately, will lead to a happier, and even a more successful life. 

Closing words

What are your thoughts on today’s guide about the secret to a happy life? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

One tiny request 

Before you go, a tiny request from Life Lab Magazine – if you found this guide useful &/or enjoyable, please share it with others. That is the best way for us to reach others and make a positive impact. 

So, share. Pay it forward!

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