While the gist of the statement seemed dead-on, the statistic itself was stunning!
Readers of this blog may know (because I mention it so often) that I leave little excuse for being unhappy. That’s because I see happiness as a decision, one I make every day. It’s a conscious, active act, not a passive one based on the situation. The motto I keep on my desk says “Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t situations, whether actively created, or passively received, that contribute to our happiness—or, perhaps better stated, trigger our internal physical and emotional responses.
Interaction with other people would seem to be one of those stimuli, provided, of course, that the interaction is positive.
The article I was reading was about how happiness improves our health. It cited a massively large study showing that “greater social connection was associated with a 50 per cent reduction in premature death.”
That comment followed the stunning statistic: “North Americans socialize (on average) only 41 minutes a day (online social networking does not count). The world’s truly happy people spend a stunning six hours a day interacting with other humans.”
Seriously? Six hours vs 41 minutes? Did the researcher really know what he was talking about?
The researcher, though, is none other than David Buettner, who has previously studied the world’s “hot spots” of longevity, so-called Blue Zones, where people tend to live the longest. (See an article in the latest National Geographic magazine). He followed that up with a study of the Blue Zones of Happiness, places where people tend to be the happiest. Then he researched what characteristics differentiate people in these zones with people elsewhere.
It’s the common, and correct, way to do proper research.
Along with “paid and volunteer work, that fuels a sense of purpose,” he found that “socialization” was a key ingredient to happiness (not really surprising), and that’s where the stunning statistic was cited!
The message is clear: Get out and socialize more, and you’ll be happier, and that will lead to a healthier, longer life.
The article from which I gleaned these morsels, also cites another 80-year-long study by Harvard University (now that’s a double-double, when it comes to credibility) that concludes, simply: “Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
It concludes that loneliness is the big killer of our era; socializing the antidote. Social media has not counteracted the problem; it has, if anything, fueled it, because it takes us away from personal flesh-and-blood interaction.
So, how do we realistically counteract our dilemma? Apparently, with meaningful and fulfilling work, and interacting socially with others—up to six hours a day.
Confession time: I’m not getting six hours a day. You can guess what one of my belated New Year’s resolutions will be!
Maybe yours, too.
(P.S. – The full article is available in the Jan/Feb edition of Zoomer magazine)
(P.P.S. – I write this on “International Hug Day.” Who knew?)