New Harvard Study Says Doing This One Thing Is Guaranteed to Make You Happier

And no, before you ask: it's not earning more money.

Nailing down what makes us happy is always complicated business. Contrary to public opinion, a bigger paycheck isn't likely to make you any happier than you are now (at least, not after a certain point), and neither is fame or professional success. But according to one of the most comprehensive studies in recent history on emotional well-being, the one thing you can do that's guaranteed to make you happier and healthier: maintain good relationships.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938, and has since expanded to include the descendants of the original participants, relying on analysis of brain scans, medical records, and in-person interviews to determine what really constitutes a life best lived.

In a TED Talk on the longitudinal study, the project's current director, Robert Waldinger, neatly summed up its findings, saying, "When we gathered together everything we knew about [these participants] at age 50, it wasn't their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80."

"Good relationships don't just protect our bodies; they protect our brains," he added.

Indeed, a recent study on nine remote villages in the Cilento region of southern Italy, where residents routinely live to be older than 90, found that people lead longer, happier, and healthier lives in societies in which the elderly enjoy strong family bonds.

Of course, as great as marriage is for the brain, it's not the only component that makes up a blissful existence. The Yale Happiness Course cited a study that found that while couples in love report greater levels of happiness in the first 18 months of marriage, they return to baseline after the honeymoon period. But being surrounded by family, whether they are relatives by blood or by choice, nonetheless has unequivocal benefits to your well-being.

And for more science-backed information on how to live as best as possible, check out why Harvard Says Doing These 5 Things Will Extend Your Life.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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