R is for relationships (DW#972)
Oct 05, 2021
While each pillar of the PERMA model is integral for a well-balanced and flourishing life, the one pillar that appears to be the single most important determinant to happiness, according to research, is that of relationships.
Chances are that we have experienced this already in our lives. We are happiest when we are connected to others and amongst loved ones. When are relationships are going well, we thrive and flourish. And conversely, stress in our closest relationships impacts all other aspects of our lives and negatively impacts our wellbeing.
Social scientists confirm this finding through research and according to Chris Peterson, a colleague of Seligman's and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, you can sum up positive psychology in three words: "Other people matter." Or more accurately, our relationships with others matter.
Just last year, Harvard University published findings of a long term study which confirms our lived experience. The study found that the quality of social connections impacts both our mental and physical health in profound ways. Working on our relationships, the experts concluded, is every bit (and even more) powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.
Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on life expectancy which is roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day - and greater than overeating and not exercising!
What does this mean for us?
If we are serious about up leveling our wellbeing and flourishing in life, we need to pay careful attention to the quality of our relationships.
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