Aging Well - What we can learn
What does a happy life look like? And how do you go about achieving it for yourself?
Researchers at Harvard conducted a landmark study over the course of several decades trying to answer those questions. The answers they received from studying the lives of hundreds of individuals over the course of several decades are both revealing and helpful for planning your journey of your life.
The study, which was conducted by George Valliant from Harvard Medical School, and took place over more than three decades, was published in the book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Study of Adult Development. Written by Valliant, the book details the data and insights which the landmark study found. The amount of data and participants in the study is astonishing and the life histories show how mental health is affected as we age.
The greatest takeaways from the book involve the six factors which are identified as predictors of a happy life. Those predictors include a stable marriage, mature coping skills, no smoking, little use of alcohol, regular exercise, and maintenance of normal weight.
“Whether we live to a vigorous old age lies not so much in our stars or our genes as in ourselves.” - George Valliant
Each of these predictors is in our control, and the study states that our social class, childhood, our own professional success/wealth or intelligence are significant factors in predicting our happiness as we age.
One of the significant goals of therapy is to improve the lives of our clients. As clinicians, we start each journey with our clients seeking to help them overcome their immediate concerns while also helping to prepare them for the future, so they can become the person they were meant to be and lead a healthy and happy life.
Our relationships, our coping skills, our ways of dealing with stress, our physical and mental health - each are predictors of our happiness, and each are integral to the work we do with our clients and are part of the path we help others navigate. Every day is a new opportunity to become the person you want to be, now and as you age.
You can purchase the book here.