Empathy And Communication Are Key for Good Relationships While Good Relationships Are Key for Happiness

The 75-year long term Grant Study found that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. These results could have been found again when looking at the distinguishing attributes of very happy people. In order to be one of those very happy people, the question is how to build good relationships and how to keep them in times of social distancing.


When Harvard Professor George E. Vaillant was asked in an interview what was the most important thing for Happiness, he replied:

“not being autistic, but being able to get in touch with other people and show empathy.”

Who is George E. Vaillant to make such a statement about Happiness? Professor Vaillant is a psychiatrist and took over the Harvard Grant study in 1967. This study was named after the millionaire W. T. Grant who initially funded the project. The Grant Study is an impressive long-term study of adult development. From 1939 students at Harvard University were recruited as participants. Everything measurable was measured, whether it was heart function, alcohol consumption or years of marriage. This long-term study delivers fascinating results and interesting conclusions can be drawn about human experience and behaviour.

The current Grant-study Director Robert Walding presented the result we are all interested in, in his TED talk in November 2015:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”

Very Happy People

Not only Harvard found relationships to be a competitive advantage when it comes to Happiness. An interesting study by Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, both famous Psychologists working in the field of Positive Psychology, could show that social relationships are the determinant that differentiates very happy people from those who are not that happy. The very happy participants did not engage in more exercise nor did they experience more positive events than the less happy participants. The very happy people in this study were

“highly social and had stronger romantic and other social relationships than less happy groups.”. [1]

So, what do we do with all those results? Good social relationships with friends, family and a special someone keep us healthy and happy while social isolation and poor relationships are linked to mental diseases like depression and anxiety.

But how do we have “good” relationships? And how can we cultivate relationships in times of social distancing?

Talk. And when I say talk, I mean listen.

One big thing when it comes to healthy and stable relationships is communication. Open and empathetic communication on a regular basis is what nourishes a relationship. People want to be heard and a friend should be there to listen. Depending on the personality, some people find it easier to open up, yet the silent ones have problems too. If you are more extraverted than a friend of yours, keep that in mind when talking to him or her the next time. The other way around, if you are more of an introverted person do not make it too hard for your friend to reach your heart.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The best way to communicate is in person, hands down. Currently, this is challenging concerning the situation with all the requirements to keep the distance. As those requirements should definitely be met, it is important to use alternative ways of communication. When was the last time you made a mindful call? Sitting down and taking the time to talk AND listen to a friend or family member will raise your mood and strengthen your bond.

One quick tip to follow right now:

  • Arrange a call with a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a long time. Spend your time with that person exclusively and don’t give in to distractions.

You want to know more about good relationships and how to nourish them? In our Happiness Challenge™, we share what we learned about good and positive relationships. We provide you with state-of-the-art knowledge from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology as we committed to your Happiness. We know that changes can be tough if the environment stays the same. Therefore, we gather a striving community of like-minded people who support and inspire each other.

Become the happiest version of yourself and join our Happiness Challenge™ now to receive science-backed information and daily missions that will strengthen your relationships in no time.






[1] Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological science13(1), 81.