What puts a smile on your face? I want you to think about it for a moment. And I don’t mean just a surface level smile, but those things that make you feel a little burst of something inside evoking feelings of contentment, joy, peace, etc.
Not long ago, my husband told me about a study done on the topic of happiness. Harvard’s Grant & Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of 268 male graduates from Harvard, as well as 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014. They used brain scans, blood draws, and written surveys to reach their conclusions. After looking at 75 years worth of data, they concluded this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period. People in good relationships lived longer, experienced less physical pain, and had less stress.
I feel like the study told me what I already knew to be true, but some of us have to learn this the hard way. Our oldest son, Joshua, just had a conversation with us about the topic of happiness as discussed by one of his sixth grade classes. Now, we get rare glimpses into the life of this boy at school, so this was a major moment in and of itself. I’m going to write what he said in Joshua’s words as best as I can remember it:
“The other day we were talking about happiness in class. We had an assignment to tell about what makes us happy. Lots of kids chose things like gifts and money. But I know better. I said family and relationships are what make you really happy. There were a few of us that said that. I was sad for my teacher, though. She told us that she is struggling in her relationship with her family right now. She said that being with us is what makes her happy. In fact, she had a particularly bad day recently with them and it was even her birthday. Can we get her a Starbucks card? She really likes Starbucks.”
At this point, picture me crying in the passenger seat of our car as I thank God in my heart that our son is becoming an individual filled with compassion. And of his own accord! Jason was muttering to me that I needed to keep myself together.
Just the day before we had written out goals for our kids in the moms’ group I help with. Compassion is one of my top goals for my kids, and it brings me such joy to begin to see it as reality. Needless to say, we stopped at Starbucks before we even made it back home.
What was also interesting about the study, is that the quantity of relationships doesn’t matter. As long as you have one person that you can be close to and rely on, your chances for happiness increase. We are all created differently with a varied capacity for the number of people we can effectively manage in our lives. Just because your group of friends may be small, doesn’t make you any less significant, and it certainly doesn’t decrease your chance for joy.
Who can you bring a little bit of happiness today? The fascinating thing about giving is that you always get something in return when you give with a generous heart. The feeling of satisfaction that you have helped someone else just can’t be beat. Happiness can and does multiply.