I have come across this research before on finding the key to happiness and health, and thought I would pass it on. The Grant and Glueck Study of Adult Development is a longitudinal study that has been following two groups of men over the last 80 years. This is to identify the psychosocial predictors of healthy aging.
The Grant study is composed of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939-1944. The Glueck Study group is made up of 456 men who grew up in the inner city neighborhoods of Boston.
The Focus of the Study
The focus is on what psychosocial variables and biological processes from earlier in life predict health and wellbeing in late life (80’s and 90’s), It also focuses on what aspects of childhood and adult experience predict the quality of intimate relationships in late life. The question really is: what keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?
The Study’s Conclusions
The empirical data shows time and time again, one strong predictor of a happy and healthy life. Robert Waldinger, the director of the Harvard Study, states: “The clearest message that we get from this 75 year study is this: GOOD RELATIONSHIPS keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
The study shows the most influential empirical predictor of health and happiness in life is – CONNECTION. He goes on to say: “It is the quality of your close relationships that matters”. In other words, make time for the people who are important to you.
Imago Perspective and Quantum Theory
From an Imago perspective this makes total sense. Quantum theory tells us that the whole universe is mainly energy and it is all connected, It is all in relationship – atom to atom, molecule to molecule, galaxy to galaxy. An intimate relationship is a microcosm of the vast macrocosm. Our whole being yearns for connection. Typically we think of a relationship as you and you. Two people.
I challenge couples to rethink their relationship as not just the two of you, but the two of you plus the Space Between. I believe now, the fastest way forward for couples is to pay close attention to the Space Between. The Space Between is sacred and holy ground. Putting negativity into the Space Between in any relationship causes disconnect and our whole being cries out for connection (as the Grant and Glueck study confirms).
An analogy might be a still pond of water. If I throw a rock in there it will send out ripples in all directions. One rock probably won’t do very much and 50 rocks will agitate the pond significantly. Similarly if I put a negative interaction into the Space Between it will affect my partner. They can’t not be affected. One negative interaction might not do too much damage; 50 will do serious harm or kill the relationship. A cardinal rule for a great relationship – no negativity in the Space Between – no blame, shame or criticism.
The flip side of the coin would be to fill the Space Between with positives. Nature abhors a vacuum. I encourage couples to articulate the positives: thanks a lot, you did a great job, I really appreciate that, etc. From an old brain perspective, if I am constantly hearing appreciations and affirmations from my partner, my old brain can relax. This is not the enemy over there, it is my ally; we are on the same team. In the end, this 75 year scientific study confirms what you already know deep down: “the good life is built with good relationships.”