I imagine that everyone starts January thinking about goals that they want to accomplish in the new year and goals that were not fully accomplished in the prior year. We are inundated with messages about how to plan for better lives and techniques to help us accomplish those goals. Nevertheless, at the end of the year, most people will have spent too much time on things that were not as meaningful to them as many of the goals that they set at the beginning of the year.
On New Year’s Day, The New York Times included an article about the 7-day Happiness Challenge. Each day for the first seven days of the year, there is an exercise for those taking on the challenge. As I write this blog, it is only Day 4 but there are already some interesting ideas. What I found fascinating was information provided about a study done at Harvard College.
Beginning in 1938, the study included 724 boys, who agreed to let the researchers track their lives, from that point until death. “Now, 85 years later, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has expanded to three generations and more than 1,300 descendants of the original subjects; it is, according to the researchers, the longest-running in-depth study on human happiness in the world.”
One important finding of the study is that more than money, careers, prestige, intelligence, and social class, “strong relationships are what make for a happy life.” There is a lot of research that shows the more socially connected we are, the longer we live and have greater protection against the impact of stress, anxiety, and are less likely to have memory loss. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “I believe loneliness is one of the defining public health concerns of our time.” The article adds “It’s not just your bonds with friends and family that are crucial to happiness. It’s your relationships with romantic partners and community groups. It’s the friendly conversation with your mail carrier or the acquaintance you see at the dog run.”
If you’re interested, you can google “7-day happiness challenge.” The process starts with a quiz that provides some feedback when completed and then each day, ideas and techniques to overcome hurdles. For example, day 2 promoted The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call. The idea is that some of us may not schedule a phone call with a friend because of fear that the call will go on too long. However, everyone can find an 8-minute window. If you believe the research, then get to work on creating and nurturing those important relationships. Not only will it be nice to connect with someone important to you but also may provide you with better health outcomes down the road.
Take care and stay safe.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.