Amount and quality of relations with other people is the number one factor that effects your level of life-satisfaction. Let’s learn how to cultivate relationships and live a happy life.
“Your favorite occupation? Travel in contested territory. Hard-working writing and reading when safely home, in the knowledge that an amusing friend is later coming to dinner.” – Christopher Hitchens
Here’s how relationships and happiness go together:
1. Romantic relationships – the most important factor for happiness
Maintaining high-quality relationships is the key to wellbeing. Researchers from Cornell University discovered that staying in romantic relations for a long time significantly increases the level of happiness among partners.
Yes, it works even if you leave your dirty socks on the floor and forget to throw out the trash. The magic ingredient is sex and high level of emotional engagement (this is caused mainly by higher levels of oxytocin which helps humans to create stronger bonds).
2. Relationships with your friends and family – don’t neglect them
Of course, relations with friends and family also play a huge role. (I’m a stern Hashashin and I can live in the desert cave, but even I have to go out from time to time). It turns out that if you’re lonely for a long time, your level of stress increases. Your immune system gets worse as well. This is caused by higher levels of cortisol in your system.
3. Happy relationships lower mortality among older people
In one research project, they talked with people of 70 to 79 years old. Researchers asked them how they assess their usefulness and engagement in society. After seven years they concluded that people who ranked themselves highest on the scale of usefulness had the lowest chances of death or chronic disease.
They also discovered that older, socially engaged people retain the high cognitive ability and are more resistant to Alzheimer’s disease. So remember the wise words of Hector Salamanca:
La familia es todo (The Family is All)
4. Eliminate negative relationships and look for happier ones
It’s also worth mentioning that negative relations are the biggest source of misery in life. If there’s a person in your life who constantly moans, argues, is pessimistic, criticizes you, lacks energy and achieves nothing – get rid of them (if you can).
Life’s too short to waste it on negative people. Jim Rohn said that you’re the average of five people you spend the most time with. Keep that in mind as a rule of thumb, and try to surround yourself with happy and positive people.
Gary Vaynerchuk says you should drop one loser friend and get one winner friend.
How to immediately increase the level of happiness in your relationships:
- Fall in love.
- There’s nothing like an intensive meeting with friends after a good day’s work.
- Forgive people (either in your mind, in writing, or in-person). Make peace with the past – it really purifies your soul.
- During times of despair, your first reaction is to disappear from social life. Don’t do that. You have some people you can talk to.
- Get active on social media. I’ve found it useful to maintain a network of relationships with friends from all around the world. I get news from Turkey, the USA, India, and Colombia. Every new message is like a quick dopamine shower for your brain.
- Find a spiritual partner. I was always inspired by the relationship between Rumi and Shams – two great Persian poets and mystics.
Also, I always tend to long for the friendship as described in one of my favorite 2Pac songs; “Never had a friend like me”. If you can find a friend like that, the world is yours.
Fight for a cause that’s important to you and you will find valuable people. It’s true – you can change things. I remember when I first listened to these lines from Steve Jobs (coming from an obscure interview). They changed my life:
“The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it”.
Meet new people. Go to parties, meetings, events, concerts, festivals, and the like. Even if you’re normally not so open to new relationships, you will see there’s the New Life waiting for you out there.
If Dante had never gone to Ponte Santa Trinita, he would never have seen Beatrice in full bloom. And therefore there would be no La Vita Nuova no Inferno, Purgatorio, and definitely no Paradiso.
5. Finding and maintaining relationships with soul mates isn’t easy – don’t take it for granted
Oftentimes, we tend to take relationships for granted. Yet great friends and lovers are so rare. They are to be cherished. In fact, the ability to maintain a long-lasting relationship is one of the main characteristics of a mature personality. People search for soulmates for all of their lives, so if you find one, consider yourself very lucky.
Sean Maguire (played brilliantly by Robin Williams) was right in one of my favorite movies Good Will Hunting:
Sean: Do you have a soul mate?
Will: Define that.
Sean: Someone you can relate to, someone who opens things up for you.
Will: Sure, I got plenty.
Sean: Well, name them.
Will: Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Frost, O’Conner…
Sean: Well that’s great. They’re all dead.
Will: Not to me, they’re not.
Sean: You can’t have a lot of dialogue with them.
Will: Not without a heater and some serious smelling salts.
6. Relationships improve your inner life as well
Recently, one of my students, a manager at the age of fifty-one years, told me that he prefers animals to humans because they’re easier to get along with. My first thought was: “That’s my man!”, but after a while, I realized that there is no substitute for a person with whom you can share your inner life.
To share your wildest dreams, your bizarre fantasies, your deepest fears, and to be understood. In psychology, this is called self-disclosure, and I daresay, it’s one of the most important ingredients of a happy life.
Unfortunately, we can’t predict the ebb and flow of friendships, and they may end in a blink of an eye. So enjoy them, while they last.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” – C.G. Jung