What's the secret to happiness? According to the longest study on the topic, it's your relationships.
Harvard researchers examined a cohort of men for 75 years and found that their relationships were the number one predictor of health and happiness. It wasn't about how many relationships a person had, rather, it was the quality that mattered.
Each relationship has its ups and downs. Maintaining a relationships whether it be romantic or platonic, requires work and perseverance.
Outside the Harvard study, here are a few tips to keep those relationships and bonds strong:
1. Don't be quick to judge.
Certainly none of us can imagine the roads others have traveled to get to where they are, so don't assume you know what they think or feel. While first impressions may be important, remember some relationships develop over time. Instead of judging, parse out your thinking to remember the good in others and you'll find yourself able to look at the upside of things more often. Always lend a friendly ear and stay considerate of others' feelings.
2. Be understanding.
Everyone might be busy, but most people could use a person who genuinely listens and does not undermine their feelings. This is the most valuable skill you could develop, and will help you build the quality of your relationships by far.
3. Remember people are busy.
Every one has their own set of issues to deal with. They may be busy and preoccupied with their own lives. Be respectful of others' personal time, and share time with them when the opportunity arises. It may not be as often as you like, but it's important to be considerate of others' personal space.
4. Seize the opportunities to expand your network of acquaintances.
Many events in the community happen only once, some yearly, but either way, it's important to capture the opportunity of getting to share yourself in different venues and with various people.
5. Don't gossip.
While this is often seen as a vice, many people still engage in the act of gossiping. This will not only damage your relationships, but it can also cause drama. Try not to gossip and you will be all the more respectful and happy, with far less drama in your life. Apply the golden rule you learned back in elementary school -- treat others the way you want to be treated.
6. Stay true to yourself.
Building relationships takes understanding and support, however, that doesn't mean you should change yourself so others can like you more. Keep the qualities that make your character strong. Build on them, and don't let others make you compromise your values.
Each person you meet could potentially strengthen your network of family, friends and acquaintances. Finding support can build satisfaction, which is vital to health and happiness. Still, it may take you time to keep that support going through reaching out every once in a while.
Remember to be kind, thoughtful, caring and truly considerate. Soon you will gain the trust of others and a lot of love, support and happiness will find you.
Here's the Ted Talk from Robert Waldinger, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the happiness study:
This blog post was previously published at Layali Webzine.