Author: Bill Chaney
I grew up in a home where warm emotions were scarce. I know my parents did the best they could to meet the challenges they faced. Dad was busy as a carpenter trying to keep food on the table for four growing children as well as pay for expensive hospital stays for my mother. Mom, sadly, struggled with depression and even left the family on several occasions to receive weeks of psychotherapy at a mental hospital.
As the oldest child, I became the family hero… the good boy… the caretaker for my younger siblings, the one upon whom everyone could depend, the “nice guy”. While I was glad to help my family (most of the time, anyway!), looking back, I did not receive the emotional nurture and warmth that I needed.
Having been raised in what could be described as an “emotionally challenged” family, I began a long term search for happiness. I also believe I developed an interest in psychology to understand my emotional life…and eventually established a career as a university professor, teaching psychology and counseling courses. To this day, if you examined the volumes on my bookshelf you could observe lots of underlining about how to acquire happiness!
So, as a retired professor– and more recently a member of the Men Living community, my curiosity was piqued recently when Shaun Emerson, in this weekly newsletter, referenced a research study on happiness. Conducted by Harvard University, no less, this study aimed to identify the factors that influence happiness and healthy emotional development. Amazingly, the study identified Social Relationships as a critical contributor to our experience of happiness and emotional health.
Coincidently a summary of that study came across my “desk” (computer desktop!) written by a freelance writer named James Quigley who is an editor and freelance author.
I thought it would be helpful to relay a summary of the findings of this study as reported by Quigley:
Beginning with 268 sophomores at Harvard, this ongoing research on happiness has been continuouslyconducted since 1938! Participants in the study now number in the thousands and includes families, descendants of these original students, and others in the greater Boston area.
Results of this correlational study strongly suggest that…
- Involvement in social relationships predicts enhanced future mental health,
- Engaging in social interactions helps produce greater physical health and levels of happiness.
- Happiness, physical health, memory functioning and overall “healthy aging” are all enhanced by emotionally warm and inclusive social connections.
- Social connections appear to have a greater influence on health and happiness than genetics, years of schooling, fame, financial security, or intelligence level.
- Conversely, lack of social connection (aka “loneliness”) appears to be just as harmful to individuals as alcohol consumption or smoking.
Quigley (2023) concludes “Community in its various forms is the number one determining factor for happiness—and pursuing happiness, it turns out, is an important act of self-care.”
As I see it…finding an interesting research study is informative, but even more important is developing ways to apply and implement the valuable findings of the study. The critical questions now are… “how can I experience the happiness I seek?” “Where can I experience the social connections that the study alludes to?”
I have a practical suggestion….
MenLiving provides comprehensive ways to experience that social connection! According to the Men Living website, (menliving.org),
“MenLiving is…committed to improving men’s lives through connection. We create opportunities for men to gather to give and get support and build friendship…[and] we forge bonds that are key to fulfillment, health, and longevity.”
It seems to me, then, that MenLiving is an important vehicle of men’s health and, as it turns out, a vehicle of happiness as well! Among other benefits, MenLiving…
- Helps men experience more positive emotions and release negativity.
- Helps men experience acceptance and freedom to identify and live according to their values.
- Helps men to make friends, encourages men to be brave in opening up, to show care, and find common interests that lead to bonding among men.
If you want to actively “pursue happiness” I encourage you to join us!
To begin… just click on the MenLiving website… www.menliving.org.
***Quigley, J. (2003) https://www.meetup.com/ Psychologytoday.com