The Final Examination

“A passing grade does not guarantee one understands the subject.”

Welcome to the fourth and final class of Happiness 101. In prior lessons, the object was to present happiness with thought-provoking and stimulating ideas inspiring you to approach this subject in ways you’d never dreamed. If you were able to break down and expand old barriers and notions of your previous beliefs on this topic, then you definitely passed the final exam. I always took the approach that happiness is what an individual makes of it. There were only 2 criteria that would not fit in any definition. The first is that your happiness should never be at the expense of another and secondly, if you criticized other’s thoughts about it.

Interestingly enough, there is a scientific study on happiness which at its origin, never had that objective in mind. In 1939, Harvard University launched the Cohort – Grant Study tracking the development of 75 men specifically focusing on mental and physical health. In 1944, they added men from Boston’s inner city to see if environment and education levels affected any outcomes. In 2015, current director of the study, Dr. Robert Waldinger, gave a TED Talk on the main outcome it has produced so far and that is: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Had we the luxury of a full term of classes, no doubt this study would have been closely scrutinized for why that conclusion was made. I’ll leave that to your extra curricular activities but I would highly suggest listening to the 15 minute TED Talk.

It wouldn’t be a real discussion without some pushback or disagreement of this study (and I’m hoping to see some in the comments as well). Ironically, I immediately thought of an octogenarian who defies some of the criteria from this study. This person has a sharp and quick mind as well as being in excellent health. Many would also agree this person looks much younger than others in a similar age bracket.

Far be it from me to say that the Harvard Study is not correct. What I am saying is that we are all individuals and sometimes we can defy statistics. This is a ray of hope for those who have not been in successful relationships for most of their lives. Nothing should ever dictate to you how you ought to be happy; explaining precisely why I believe that happiness is what each person ascribes and decides what it means.

In today’s world where division and strife seem to have overtaken the concept of happiness, the Harvard Study clinched one belief for me. The idea of relationships – and not just a marriage or partner but all types – is the key ingredient causing all the prevailing contention, isolation, and discrimination. Disagreement with someone is never settled by conflict or violence. True strength is shown when we can sincerely listen to those who hold differing opinions and learn to get along. Working on building and maintaining all relationships not only brings us happiness but will cause it naturally to overflow onto others.

My thanks to Joel Holland on Unsplash for the beautiful photo and don’t forget to leave your final test answers in the comments.

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