Finding Faith: The good life is a friendship away

New book on the scientific study of happiness borrows from an old book ... the Bible.

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks

In this season of new year’s resolutions, many of which we set hoping they’ll lead to more happiness in our lives, we all could benefit from doing a little homework on a soon-to-be released book called “The Good Life,” written by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz.

The writers are the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted. The aim of the research, which stretches all the way back to the Great Depression? … To determine what makes a life fulfilling and meaningful.

And guess what decades of research has found? … It’s not bigger muscles, nor weighing less, nor more wealth, nor a better job, nor a more organized home. Nope. … Turns out none of those things — while quite possibly beneficial in their own right — are the actual key to happiness.

You know what the research tells us is the answer? … Relationships!

That’s right. The research tells us that “the stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and overall healthier lives. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals that the strength of our connections with others can predict the health of both our bodies and our brains as we go through life,” states the Simon & Schuster website promoting the book.


Of course, devotees of the Apostle Paul might already intrinsically know this secret, as he spends so much time in his New Testament writings talking about the corporate body of Christ, meaning that we are all one big human family. Frankly, he spills a lot of ink writing about relationships.

And, for that matter, Jesus himself instructs us in his “Great Commandment” to love our neighbors as ourselves. In other words, God deemed relationships so important, God didn’t suggest that we treat others well, our Creator commanded it!

It makes one wonder if maybe the Harvard researchers could have saved themselves decades of work had they just turned to scripture for their answers in the first place!

It may seem logical that our closest relationships improve our lives, of course. However, the study’s research shows that investment in “(r)elationships in all their forms — friendships, romantic partnerships, families, coworkers, tennis partners, book club members, Bible study groups — all contribute to a happier, healthier life.”

Friends, this isn’t to say that increasing the amount of our exercise, eating a few more greens, or putting a few more bucks in savings aren’t good improvements in our habits, because they are. They just don’t necessarily result in leading happier lives, as we might think.

However, there seems to be one sure fire way to improve our happiness, and that’s to invest in those around us because “as 'The Good Life' shows us, it’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you have, and never too late to build new ones.”

Now, there’s some motivation in this first week of the new year!


Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at for comments and story ideas.
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