Lessons from the Study of Happiness

What’s interesting is not how much trouble a person faces but how they respond to it

How is it that two people can experience the exact same event yet the way they experience the event could be polar ends of a scale. George Valliant, the Grant studies long-term director, came to the conclusion “our own defences can spell [our] redemption or ruin”, this in itself is an empowering statement, which frees us from fear of troubled times or bad events that arise in the lives of all of us, rather it puts the person in the driver seat of their life and implores them to study the routes that they normally take, are they the fastest, do they have the best views, are these roads fun or am I sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. Unfortunately when it comes to our automatic responses and defences we can more easily spot them than actually change them. Compassion for the self and patience is needed to reform our reactions. Responses, such as, humour, altruism, anticipation, suppression and sublimation were found to be mature responses in life common of the happiest people.

Enjoy the present

Did your mum or grandmother ever say to you ‘enjoy where you’re at in life right now; you only get to be this age once!’

These are wise words and ones to live by. The grant study found that most men by the time that they were in their late forties had managed to become successful, however, he points out this success came with a great fear during the period of their lives between 25 and 35. What would your life be like if you were told or had been told not to worry and to hold a strong belief that you will eventually make it? Wouldn’t it be liberating?

When asked “what have you learnt from the Grant Study?” He replied that the only thing that matters in life are your relationships to other people.

What happens when you try to make yourself laugh? Make yourself fall in love? Make yourself forgive? “Happiness is not about ‘me’”. People who thrive in life and age well have an ease with social connectedness and share warm relationships. These relationships are necessary, but it is important to note that even if you were not to receive this warm connection from a parent then there are many other relationships that contribute to successful aging. The important part is that you do have warm personal relationships.

In an interview Valliant leaves us with this,

“Happiness is love. Full stop.”

This article summarises some of the readings on Waypoint 1 of the new Loving Your Life 12 Month Online Personal Development Journey.   The reading was a longer article about a 72 year long study on happiness - The Harvard Grant Study.

And if you would like to learn more about the Loving Your Life Program, in which we explore how to put this into action in your life, click here!

About the Author

I am a qualified Coach (ICF PCC level) with over 12 years professional experience as a Coach. I am also a Coach Trainer. I am passionate about supporting others to fulfil their potential and to turn their dreams into a reality.