The secret of our happiness.

It’s both obvious, and yet it is not!

Anyone who has more than a single dog around them knows how a group of dogs, even just a couple, are fantastic companions. Extending that line of thought brings one immediately to the realisation that a person who lives on their own yet has a dog never experiences the loneliness of a person who lives on their own ‘sans chien’.

So hold that notion in your mind as I introduce an item that was recently published on the Care 2 Living Healthy blogsite. It was called, in part, What really makes us happy and is republished here within the terms of Care 2.


A 75-Year Study Reveals What Really Makes Us Happy

1372622.largeBy: Becky Striepe, January 8, 2016

Robert Waldinger directed a 75-year study looking at what makes us happy. It boils down to three things, and they’re not the things we tend to think are going to make us happy. His TED Talk about the study findings challenges our most common life goals.

When you ask most people what would make them happy, their answers tend to cluster around achievement. Maybe they think they’d be happier if they were rich or famous. Or maybe they feel like success in their careers would bring them true happiness.

Unlike many studies on happiness, the Harvard Study of Health Development happened in real time. The researchers didn’t rely on memories of past events. Instead, this project—passed down from research team to research team for 75 years—followed a group of 724 men through their lives. They were interviewed every two years, and got complete physicals at every check-in.

When the project began, 268 of the men were sophomores at Harvard University, where the study took place. The other 456 men were inner-city Boston high school students.

Waldinger was the study’s fourth director and in his talk he explains some of the interesting findings about happiness. He says happiness boils down to three things, but if you wanted to sum it up even more succinctly, you could say this: What really makes us happy is social connection.


Waldinger says there are three main lessons about what really makes us happy that come from this study:

  1. Social connections are critical to our mental and physical health. Whether it’s relationships with family, friends or neighbors, people who have social connection are happier and healthier. In fact, he says, loneliness is toxic. People who want these relationships but lack them are not only not as happy but they experience worse health.
  2. Your number of friends doesn’t matter. What matters most is the quality of your relationships, not the quantity. People with loving relationships in their lives, not just from spouses, but friends or other family members, had overall better health. Quality of relationships was a better predictor of later-life health than markers we tend to focus on, like cholesterol levels.
  3. Quality relationships are good for brain health. People who have quality relationships in their lives have better memory as they age. People without quality relationships were more likely to experience cognitive decline as they grew older.

He defines a quality relationship as one where you feel like you can count on the other person. He says that doesn’t mean never fighting. It means an overall sense of security.

When you hear these results, they sort of seem like a no-brainer, right? But when the study began, 80 percent of participants said being rich would make them happy. We know on some level that relationships are a key to happiness, but we tend to discount their full importance. Why? Waldinger gets into that in his talk, as well (at around 12:15, if you want to skip ahead). You can watch it in full right here:

Published on Nov 30, 2015

What makes us happy and healthy as we go through life?
If you want to invest in “the good life,” where should you put your time and energy? Robert Waldinger answers these questions with lessons learned from a 75-year-long study of adult life that started in the late 1930s and continues to this day.
Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Zen priest. He directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School.


Thus while this study does not refer to dogs, nonetheless a dog or two (or nine!) does provide a wonderful social connection, as all those who know and love dogs will attest to.

As seen on BarkPost.
As seen on BarkPost.

16 thoughts on “The secret of our happiness.

  1. We met a homeless kid (early twenties, i’d say) the other day in the city sitting on a bench with his dog. A big dog, mind you. We started talking. I always help homeless people who have dogs. He said his boy was his only friend and feeds him before he feeds himself. The dog certainly looked healthy, and very clean.

    1. Hi John. Your observation about that young man and his canine companion struck a chord. For the great majority of homeless persons we see locally are accompanied by a dog. Likewise we try to help wherever we can. There are so many aspects of this world of ours that hint at very tragic circumstances for too many out there.

      1. Indeed, and it shows a great and deep humanity for a person with so little to dedicate so much to a four-legged friend. It’s as your post detailed: we need relationships, and a dogs unconditional love can be the thing that gets a person through an otherwise terrible day.

  2. What a beautiful photo from BarkPost Paul. And John, it’s such a sad reflection on our society that that homeless young man’s dog was his only friend. There’s currently an ad on our TVs here from the Salvation Army, showing a homeless young woman under a bridge with her dog and it’s very moving.
    Unfortunately, our 18 year old, beautiful, gentle Cairn terrier Max, passed away today. The vet came to the house and it was oh so peaceful. Just before the preliminary sedative took effect, Max, lying on his side on his comfy bed, licked my hand clean of gourmet vanilla ice-cream. Way to go!

    1. I am so, so sorry to hear that Marg. I absolutely dread the day i might have to do this, but i am glad your vet came to you. That is something I would insist on. My thoughts are with you.

      1. Marg, Jean and I share John’s sorrow at your news. But dear Max certainly lived to a grand old age. As with John, I dread the time when we have to ask Dr. Jim to come and end the life of Pharaoh, or any of the others. But that’s one of the key lessons we learn from our dogs; the inevitability of death and the need to embrace it with peace. Thank goodness we can administer to dogs what for humans in so many parts of the world would be called murder – assisted dying. Oregon is one of the few States in the USA where assisted suicide is legal. It strikes me as very civilised.

        Thinking of you!

  3. Another very interesting post Paul… Would that our human race take a leaf out the animal kingdoms sometimes.. We need each other more than we think… Our Pets are always there for us no matter what… Enjoy your day Paul.. as we begin another week.. 🙂

    PS.. notice how I am keeping up this week? 🙂 .. Come growing season I am sure it will slide.. But thank YOU for being part of My Community! 🙂

    1. Would that the human race would learn so much from the animal kingdom, as you so wisely say, Sue. The social connections that flow from this funny old business of blogging are so important! Big hugs, Sue.

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