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Do your friends hold the key to your happiness?

The research is pretty clear that to live a happy life, we’ve got to connect deeply with other people. Robert Waldinger is professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Massachusetts General Hospital and cofounder of the Lifespan Research Foundation. He joins host Krys Boyd to discuss why friendships, marriages, even book groups, form the basis for a more meaningful existence, and why it’s never too late to form new, lasting bonds. His book, written with co-author Marc Schulz, is called “The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.”

Bonus Blog: Relationships unlock happiness, so how do we make them better?

We form plenty of relationships over the course of our lives—but not all of them will last. For relationships to flourish over time, it’s important to know how to work through rough patches.

Our guest, Robert Waldinger, is involved in the longest study of happiness ever conducted. The Harvard professor explains that before working on our relationships, we should first recognize which ones are worth holding onto. 

“Not every depleting relationship is a bad relationship,” Waldinger says. “What we find is that the people who are best at relationships don’t just walk away when there’s a problem or when it’s not fun, but they see if they can work through differences and difficulties.”

Of course, there are some relationships we should let go of. Waldinger suggests looking inward and observing how you feel when spending time with people in your life. The way you feel after spending time with someone can be a good indicator of whether to invest in the relationship. 

“See if you can invest in those relationships that at least don’t make you feel sadder and more closed off to the world when you walk away from the conversation,” Waldinger says. 

When it comes to mending relationships, curiosity can drive a deeper connection. It’s easy to be curious about new people in our lives, but we can also show a genuine interest in people we know well.

“If we can bring curiosity to relationships that are tired or we take for granted, it can really liven them up,” Waldinger says. “One of my meditation teachers taught me this. He said, ‘Ask yourself the question: What’s here that I’ve never noticed before?’ And he was saying that we should do that when we sit down on a cushion and meditate. But you can also do that when you’re having dinner tonight with the person you’ve had dinner with every night for years.”

Learn more about strengthening relationships and finding happiness in them by listening to our podcast with Robert Waldinger above.

—Cristin Espinosa, Digital Producer for Think