What Are The Key Elements to Happiness? A Harvard Study Adds Insights

December 19, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Having a loving family, supportive friends, good health, and having a sense of purpose, are these not what are truly at the root of most people’s happiness? So, then why do we struggle so much to find our happiness through other means, when we know the answer is found in what I have already mentioned? I think many people are in a state of what is currently a popular term of cognitive dissonance, or a inner mental conflict of knowing what is true but choose to believe and behave otherwise to the facts. Most of us know that happiness comes from within, but still look to find it or buy it at some retail store or car dealer down the road. Americans’ happiness has been in a state of decline for many decades now, where many people have a lack of faith or spirituality, have less sense of purpose/meaning, less deeper connections to family and friends, and even less loyalty and pride in the workplace. Many people prefer living a false reality through social media or interactions entirely through the internet. Open your eyes and take an honest look around and see where we are truly residing. However, there is hope though. We just need to do the work. Read further below.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development (aka the Grant/Glueck Study) is an ongoing longitudinal study having started in 1938 with 724 men, with women added in some years later. The goal of the study was to track the participants’ physical and mental health, along with their social and emotional interactions and development over the span of their lives. Now 80 years later, the study is still offering insights into what are the key elements that participants found to have provided happiness throughout their lives. The original study began with a group of 268 Harvard sophomore men, and then later expanded to include a second cohort of 456 inner-city young men from Boston. Many of the men from both groups would go off to fight in WWII, where consequently not all of the soldiers were able to return back home alive.

Key findings:

  • Relationships are key to happiness and well-being. Individuals who pursue and maintain strong social ties are more often happier and healthier than those who are more isolated.
  • Mental and physical health are synergistically entwined. People with good mental health are more prone to be in good physical condition.
  • Stress management is essential for long term health and wellness. Having healthy coping mechanisms helps with better health and longevity.
  • No “one size fits all” approach worked for all. Everyone is uniquely individual in how certain aspects or behaviors of health maintenance may work for some but not necessarily others.
  • Expression and experiencing of positive emotions. Emotions and expressions of gratitude, thankfulness, compassion and empathy are thought to heavily influence health and happiness.

And there it is, some scientific data that has been tracked and passed the test of time. Maybe nothing revolutionary is found in the study, that we often take for granted every day. Family, friends, good health, and a sense of purpose and/or faith in something greater than the individual. All is really needed is the desire, effort and time to make these key elements a reality to the user. Start or join an in-person club or group, call or visit friends and loved ones, mend broken relationships, volunteer, spark new conversations and relationships where appropriate. Get moving! Walk, run, swim, yoga, tai chi, hike. Get your blood moving. Try to be at least 51% positive, as much as possible. Find the things that make you want to wake up every day and get out of the bed, the house, your head. There is a whole world out there that you can be part of and not just an observer from a distance.


Msudlifemed. (2019, February 16). Harvard Study of Adult Development- Relationships, Resilience, and Happiness (Healthy Aging). MSU Denver Lifestyle Medicine Resource Hub. https://msudlifemed.wordpress.com/2019/02/16/harvard-study-of-adult-development-relationships-resilience-and-happiness/


I teach and offer lectures about holistic health, stress management, qigong, tai chi, baguazhang, meditation, phytotherapy (herbs), music for healing, self-massage, and Daoyin (yoga).

I look forward to further sharing more of my message by partnering with hospitals, wellness centers, VA centers, schools on all levels, businesses and individuals that see the value in building a stronger nation through building a healthier population. I also have hundreds of FREE education video classes, lectures and seminars available on my YouTube channel at:




Mind and Body Exercises on Google: https://posts.gle/aD47Qo

Jim Moltzan



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