One of the tenets of stoic philosophy states that happiness is an intrinsic state. A state of mind, which is not affected or afflicted or changes with respect to circumstances externally related to your person. A state of emotional plateau, where no matter what the mistress of fortune endows your time with, it doesn’t peak or dive. A being of total emotional containment, if I may.
I think, I am emotionally contained, to the point of seemingly coming across as cold or numb. Compartmentalization then, comes easy. Furthermore, this state gives me the liberty to chase after my curios - one of the objects being happiness or what makes a person a happy, to be precise.
What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness
Yesterday, a new friend shared with me this Ted talk - which it turns out is a talk on the subject of what makes a person happy, based on a 75 year old (and still ongoing) research study on adult life carried out by Harvard. This study might be the only one of its kind that’s ever been undertaken.
The study started with over 700 volunteers (all men) who opted-in, in their teens. It followed, and still follows their life’s year after year - asking them about their lives, their home, their work, and everything else that constituted, and constitutes their life. It’s by far one of the most rarest studies of its kind, as Dr. Robert Waldinger points out that there not many studies like these one - some fail, for some others there’re a lot of drop outs, funding dries up etc. And, this one has made it past its 75th year, and has survived thanks to tenacity of the researchers, and everyone else involved within this project. About 60 of the 700 odd men, are still alive; They’re still participating in this study. That’s not all though, because the team is now beginning to study the 2000 children of these men.
The department responsible for this study, diligently sends out a questionnaire every year to the current remaining 60 odd volunteers. Which they follow up with medical checkups, brain scans, and one-to-one interviews with them, and their immediate family. All of this to track down the answer to - what is that makes a person happy?
If you’ve 12 minutes to spare today, I highly recommend watching this talk.