Written by: Jeanie Chang, LMFTA, Behavioral Wellness
You’ve heard it before – ‘money cannot buy happiness.’ Have you ever asked yourself whether you seriously believe this statement? According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, many still place value in gaining wealth, fame, and prestige, but his 75-year old study on adult development, indicates those things do not lead to true happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in one’s life. In his Ted Talk, Waldinger says his study reveals that happiness lies in the quality of our relationships. Again, here is someone focusing on quality over quantity. Waldinger says you could be surrounded by friends and family throughout your life, and still be lonely. However, the people who faired the best in his 75 year study, were those who were in securely attached relationships and also prioritized those relationships in their lives. Those quality relationships also served as protective factors for the brain and body. For example, his study showed that people in securely attached relationships had sharper memories in their 80s than those people who were lonely where they experienced earlier memory decline.
My therapeutic practice is all about focusing on patients’ resources within their social support systems such as family, friends, and community, in order to produce successful clinical outcomes. As a marriage and family therapist, I hold a systemic lens; seeking to understand that patients’ relationships influence and create their individual experiences. According to research and theory, behavioral health and wellness issues and family problems are effectively treated in the context of relationships. I believe that throughout our lives, we exist in a number of relationships that directly and indirectly impact our well-being.
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger shares three important lessons from his study on adult development in which people who have quality relationships in their lives feel more fulfilled and happy.