Why do we do the things we do? Despite our best attempts to "know thyself," the truth is that we often know astonishingly little about our own minds, and even less about the way others think. As Charles Dickens once put it, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
Psychologists have long sought insights into how we perceive the world and what motivates our behavior, and they've made enormous strides in lifting that veil of mystery. Aside from providing fodder for stimulating cocktail-party conversations, some of the most famous psychological experiments of the past century reveal universal and often surprising truths about human nature.
We only need one thing to be happy.
The 75-year Harvard Grant study --one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever conducted -- followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates from the classes of 1938-1940 (now well into their 90s) for 75 years, regularly collecting data on various aspects of their lives. The universal conclusion? Love really is all that matters, at least when it comes to determining long-term happiness and life satisfaction.
The study's longtime director, psychiatrist George Vaillant, told The Huffington Post that there are two pillars of happiness: "One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away." For example, one participant began the study with the lowest rating for future stability of all the subjects and he had previously attempted suicide. But at the end of his life, he was one of the happiest. Why? As Vaillant explains, “He spent his life searching for love.”
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