When John Lennon was in school, as the story goes, he was asked by his teachers what he wanted to be when he grew up. When the future Beatle answered “happy”, he was told he didn’t understand the point of the exercise – he replied they didn’t understand the point of life.
The pursuit of happiness should be the reason to get out of bed every morning.
But what is the secret to happiness? Traveling? Being Instagram famous? Eating those mushrooms that keep growing behind the cowshed?
The study of happiness
A researcher who has been researching just what makes us happy has come up with an answer: a person’s happiness will depend not on the version of their iPhone or the content of their bank account, but on the quality of relationships they have throughout their life.
Researcher Arthur Aron began the discovery process when he fell in love way back in his University days. He decided to do something completely understandable for those who’ve fallen head over heels: study love, and find out more about what it means.
His research showed that the single biggest indicator of happiness in life was not money, six-pack abs or how attractive your children are in beauty pageants, but the quality of your relationships.
While this is not just limited to romantic relationships – strong friendship bonds and social experiences also contribute significantly to happiness – dedicated and enduring romantic relationships will often be the key factor in determining a happy life.
Research has shown that strong relationships will increase quality of life by 50 per cent, pretty good odds if you can get them.
The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence – the same document that allows you to carry guns around for no apparent reason other than keeping the King of England out of your face, although carrying guns seems to keep Americans happy, so perhaps it is working.
The researchers noted, “having a satisfying romantic relationship is important for retaining and increasing future life satisfaction”.
Aron notes that even though romantic relationships are seen as frivolous – particularly in our time-poor, pornified, swipe-right society – they have the potential to significantly change people’s lives.
Furthermore – and contrary to what the people down at Ashley Madison have to say – the study shows that we are hardwired to form relationship bonds, and once we establish these attachments they form a primary factor in determining the extent to which we are happy.
Back to Aron and the life-changing moment where he fell in love. That woman he fell for back years ago? She’s still his wife — and also a noted psychologist.