Begin today’s lesson by discussing with your class what they believe to be the keys to living a happy life.
- If you were going to invest now in your future best self, what sort of things would your put your time and energy into? (Give your students a chance to answer and discuss this question together. Common themes that may arise are: Finding a career they’re passionate about, frequent traveling, securing financial freedom, etc.)
This is a really tricky question to answer. After all, if the key to living a happy life were simple, surely we would all be aware of it. However, there is one group of researchers who is attempting to answer this very question.
This year, one of the longest-running and most complete studies on adult life and happiness will turn 80 years old. Initially started in 1938 at Harvard University, the now named Good Life project has tracked the lives of 724 men with the goal of revealing “clues to leading healthy and happy lives.”
And almost a century later, the researchers at Harvard have compiled their results to determine three keys to living a good life. Let’s take a look.
Read the following information to your teens:
Nearly 80-year Harvard study shows how to live a healthy and happy life
“Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants…
Researchers who have pored through data, including vast medical records and hundreds of in-person interviews and questionnaires, found a strong correlation between men’s flourishing lives and their relationships with family, friends, and community. Several studies found that people’s level of satisfaction with their relationships at age 50 was a better predictor of physical health than their cholesterol levels were.
‘When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old,’ said Waldinger in a popular TED Talk. ‘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.’”
- According to the results of the study, what elements can go a long way to securing lifelong happiness? (Answers include close relationships and quality (not quantity) of relationships.)
- Were you surprised by the results of the study? If so, what was most surprising? (Accept all reasonable answers.)
The study also found that while healthy relationships can be hugely beneficial for our happiness and well-being, unhealthy relationships (those with high levels of conflict) can “be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced.”
This creates a tricky catch-22. If relationships hold the key to living a happy, fulfilled life, yet an unhappy relationship can lead to the very opposite, how can we guarantee that our relationships will be successful?
In today’s lesson, we’ll find out God’s solution to finding the meaning and fulfillment we want and need.