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  • Tracy Hooper

What Makes You Healthier & Happier

Recently I read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal written by two Harvard researchers called, “The Real Secret of Lifelong Fulfillment.” It comes from the Harvard Study of Adult Development that is 85 years old and counting! Beginning in 1938, researchers tracked 724 teenage boys & young men and, “more than 1,300 of their male and female descendants over three generations, asking thousands of questions and taking hundreds of measurements to find out what keeps people healthy and happy." Here’s what the researchers said, “Contrary to what many people might think, it’s not career achievement, or exercise, or a healthy diet. Don’t get us wrong,” they say, “these things matter. But one thing continuously demonstrates its broad and enduring importance: good relationships.” Good relationships keep us healthier and happier! Obviously, those young men became adults with all kinds of jobs and life experiences. Good and bad. Happy and sad. Some tragic. But subsequent researchers like the ones who wrote this article have kept the Harvard study going with an 84% participation rate for nearly nine decades.

Most recently, they looked back at the participants at midlife who would become happy and healthy in their 80’s and those who wouldn’t. They asked questions about physical pain, brain function, sleep, & loneliness. Research has shown that chronic loneliness increases a person’s odds of death in any given year by 26%. Now, I’m not reporting this to depress you. Think of it, instead, as a wake-up call to build and grow meaningful relationships for your good health and long life. Here’s an example:

  • “If you’re 40 and you see a friend once a week for a coffee hour, that adds up to the equivalent of 87 days together before you turn 80.

  • If you see them once a month, it’s about 20 days.

  • Once a year, about 2 days.”

Contrast those stats with these: In 2018, the average American spent 11-hours every day with media from TV to podcasts to radio to smartphones to videos like this one. Researchers say, “from the age of 40 to 80, that adds up to 18years of waking life!” Well…what does this have to do with business, or career advancement, or confidence? Humans thrive with connections, and connections only happen with other humans. If you work for an organization and you have an office, go there. At least sometimes. If you have the option to come into the office, do it. At least sometimes. If the company mandate is: 3-days-a-week for in-office work, see it as a gift to your mental health and longevity.

Of course, there are plenty of reasons you may want to be fully remote: childcare, commutes, parking, a quiet place for focused work, or a way to avoid co-workers who talk too loudly on Zoom calls! The upside is the opportunity to share ideas spontaneously, to figure out how to get along, to give and get constructive feedback in real time, and to learn from each other simply by being in proximity. This is especially true for those who are new in their careers. You can listen and learn, make friends, find mentors and literally be seen. Rub elbows with senior management and you might get an invite to join a meeting simply because you are physically present. And you leaders, can more easily find and spot your next superstars and help your company thrive. All this builds a Confident Company Culture. You may not make your best friends at the office, but you can build good relationships. And they may contribute to your well-being and a long, happy life! Thanks for reading.

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