Sunday, May 5, 2013


I have had lots of reasons over the past year to consider my own hierarchy of happiness factors. Recent publicity around the famous Harvard Grant Study on happiness cited:

"That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
The Atlantic June 2009: What Makes Us Happy?

“The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’ ”
The Atlantic May 2013: What Make Us Happy, Revisited

Here is the catch. Relationships do not just happen. Relationships require an investment of time.

Relationship possibilities are everywhere. There is the obvious love interest - your partner in life. Then there are grandmother, grandfather, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, son, daughter, nephew, niece, stepparent, step-sibling, friend, neighbor, teacher, mentor, work colleague, clergyman and more.

Friendships are particularly interesting because these are the people we get to choose to be our quasi-family. There is not enough ink for me to write about the friends I have that make me happy. Some of these friends I talk to multiple times a week, some multiple times a month and some just every once in a while. At some point, we have formed an unbreakable bond through growing up together or achieving adulthood together or working together or raising children together or just sharing a meaningful moment in time. I also have several important relationships found on unconventional paths.

Familial relationships can be tricky. Blood does not always equate to closeness and warmth. Life dealt me an early loss that had a ripple effect still felt today. However, the enormity of my feelings for my sons and my brother more than compensate. The Harvard study specifically called out happiness indicators of a warm mother and son relationship (a timely reminder as Oldest Son becomes a teenager) and loving sibling interactions (love, love, love my brother dearly.)   

The last year has brought on the most profound change with my life partner - my Commuter Husband. Our choices and fate have dealt us situations that would either cripple us or transform us. My April birthday present from Commuter Husband was not expensive or large or sparkly or elaborate. It was not the usual humorous store bought card . This year he wrote from the heart ... an excerpt below (with his permission) ...

"It is kind of like you are my favorite piece of art. I look at you again and again and I notice little details that I haven’t noticed before that give my favorite art a richness to it.  You are my art!  Every day I notice little things about you that I appreciate.  You are extremely passionate about what you spend your time on.  You are constantly imagining “what if?”  You are the best  friend anyone could ask for!"

So I heartily agree with the Harvard study. 
Relationships with people matter. Happiness is Love. Full stop. 

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