What do Valentine’s Day and Harvard have in common?

What do Valentine’s Day and Harvard have in common?

February 01, 2024

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.” - Mark Twain

I recently read the The Good Life written by the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, Dr. Robert Waldinger, MD and Dr. Marc Schulz, PhD. This study follows the lives of two generations of individuals from the same families for more than eighty years (and counting). It is the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted.

So what makes for a fulfilling and meaningful life? A good life?

The simple answer is: relationships. The stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and healthier lives.

The book shares the personal stories of the participants in the Harvard Study over decades and the greatest nugget of wisdom is the revelation that the strength of our connections with others can predict the health of both our bodies and our brains as we go through life.

“Through all the years of studying these lives, one crucial factor stands out for the consistency and power of its ties to physical health, mental health, and longevity. Contrary to what many people might think, it’s not career achievement, or exercise, or a healthy diet. Don’t get us wrong; these things matter (a lot). But one thing continuously demonstrates its broad and enduring importance: Good relationships.”

“In fact, good relationships are significant enough that if we had to take all eighty-four years of the Harvard Study and boil it down to a single principle for living, one life investment that is supported by similar findings across a wide variety of other studies, it would be this:

Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period.

I recognize that people have different sentiments about the significance of Valentine’s Day and whether or not it qualifies as a “real” holiday. Regardless of your feelings, this year I would encourage you to take stock of your relationships - friendships, romantic partners, family members, coworkers, etc. It’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you already have, and never too late to build new ones. 

We have a copy of the book in our SMB library which you are welcome to borrow. Alternatively, click here to listen to Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk about the Harvard Study, “What Makes a Good Life,” which is one of the ten most-watched TED talks ever. It’s less than 13 minutes and I strongly encourage you to listen and use it as an opportunity to be introspective.