What makes for Happiness

Christmas carolers and mall music remind us that this “is the happiest time of the year.”  This Advent/Christmas season is an opportunity to reflect on what truly makes us happy.  It can’t just be the busyness and bustling.  Is it the gifts?  You have probably determined that the answer has to be no.  An affirmative answer would lead to a very short article.   


Now don’t get me wrong, I love gifts.  However, they are truly not the source of happiness.  A 75-year Harvard study proved the wisdom of Socrates.  Socrates, who lived a very frugal and simple life, loved to go to the market.  When his students asked about this, he replied, “I love to go and see all the things I am happy without.”


The Harvard study I just mentioned verified that good relationships are the “greatest predictor of health and happiness.”   The original participants of the study were young men attending Harvard and the second group in the study was from some of Boston’s poorest neighbors.  The results of both groups were identical.  The study continues to day with the same results. 


The Harvard study indicates three significant findings.


1.     Social connections are essential to living longer with physically healthier and happier lives.  These connections nourish our spirits as well as our bodies.  Loneliness contributes to a lack of happiness.

2.     It is not the number of different relationships a person might have, but rather the quality of the relationships. The number of followers on Instagram and Twitter don’t count toward happiness just bragging rights. 

3.     The study also shows that the body as well as the brain benefit from social connections.  Those who have strong relationships in their lives have sharper memories later in life and less decline of brain function.


If we want to be happy this season and the next and the next, we need to spend more time on building and maintaining relationships than on gift giving. 



Sr. Sarah Deeby, OSM, LPC