It’s not too difficult to believe that great relationships make an actual and positive contribution to our physical health, but a recent Harvard study uncovered just how those relationships make us happier and healthier. The study was one of the longest on health and wellness in history (spanning over 75 years) and looked at the health profiles as well as the personal and professional journeys of each participant.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.”
Indeed, the study found that strong relationships have the ability to delay, in a statistically significant way, mental and physical decline. Strong relationships were also more accurate predictors of happiness over a long period than genetics, IQ, or social status.
It’s obviously counterintuitive to accept that relationships trump things like genetics or circumstances like your socioeconomic status, but it’s something we discuss all the time at The Art of Charm: you are often much more what you actually do, and strong relationships take intentionality and doing.
I’ve written on this site about the power of a network and shared some tools to help you build strong relationships. Beyond that, though, I would like to recommend an additional exercise.
The Friend Universe
We have resumes to help us land the right job and online dating profiles to help us meet the right person. Why don’t we keep a document handy to make sure we are staying in touch with the right people so we can build those stronger relationships that only accrue more and more benefits over time? Create three lists:
- Your closest friends – those you speak to every week without fail
- Your good friends – those you speak to or see every month
- Your friends – those you only occasionally speak to
This is a snapshot of this moment in time, but these lists do not assume intentionality. Perhaps you have people who are “close friends” who you’ve grown apart from over time. There may be some good friends who you would like to be closer with but perhaps haven’t put in the effort to making that happen. Then there might be your friend Martin who lives out in Oregon who you shouldn’t need an excuse to go out and visit. Taking the time to actually write the names of these people down and ask yourself whether you are happy with the state of affairs is a powerful way to kickstart more intentionality and focus in your relationships. As we spoke about above: it might literally save your life.