Pillars of Emotional WHealth: Engagement and PurposePillars of Emotional WHealth: Engagement and Purpose https://www.bodywhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Social-Engagement-01-1024x641.jpg 1024 641 BodyWHealth https://www.bodywhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Social-Engagement-01-1024x641.jpg
The science of happiness is emerging as a flourishing discipline. Leading universities now devote resources to mind-body medicine, and government and private sources are funding research to understand the origins and impact of happiness.
The Grant Study, and the parallel Glueck Study, both conducted by Harvard scientists, have followed two cohorts of men from a range of socio-economic and educational backgrounds for more than 75 years. The objectives of the research were to identify predictors of healthy aging; in other words, to elucidate the secrets to a happy and successful life. The research findings have been published in three books; the most recent titled Triumphs of Experience by lead author George Vaillant. Although the study included only men, a limitation consequent on the antiquated gender balance prevalent when the research started, it nevertheless has conclusions that have been verified in subsequent, more representative work. The power of the original Harvard research is its incredible duration, providing illuminating windows into the full lifetimes of the participants.
Two features stand out above all others from this work.
The first is that social engagement is a fundamental pillar of happiness. It trumped career success, financial success, and physical health as the top driver of happiness. The others play important roles, but are dwarfed by interpersonal connectivity. We flourish in the presence of supportive, loving relationships.
The second pillar of happiness emerging from this and other research is the role of purpose. When we are focused on our role as contributors in society, we are rewarded with the neuro-chemical prizes of happiness (and, by the way, physical health too).
Happiness is an elastic phenomenon – we can always enhance it. In fact, some of the men that started with the worst looking happiness profiles in the Grant study ended up being the happiest. Employing the pillars of engagement and purpose can powerfully influence our futures, at any age.
Challenges and obstacles that we face on our journey need not divert us away from happiness. Professor Vaillant cites the examples of Beethoven and Mother Theresa who both survived miserable beginnings. Outward focus propelled both to enormous success. Rather than succumb to personal strife, the way we manage adversity and challenge can propel us further up the ladder of happiness. This is BodyWHealth.