How to live a happy life (7 Social Fitness Keystones)


“The frequency and the quality of our contact with other people are two major predictors of happiness.” – Prof. Robert Waldinger, MD

What to do

Exercise your social fitness to increase your happiness levels for good.

Why it works

Robert Waldinger (pictured above) is a Harvard professor, Zen master and NYT bestselling author. He’s also the director of Harvard’s 85-year study on happiness. The study found that the secret of a happy life isn’t fame, power or money.

It’s healthy and balanced relationships. On top of keeping us happier, they also let us live healthier and longer. The key to these healthy and balanced relationships is social fitness.  If you think that your relationships will take care of themselves, here’s a harsh truth: they won’t. Like your body, your social life needs exercise to thrive. 

Social fitness requires taking stock of our relationships”, Prof. Waldinger wrote in a recent article, “and being honest with ourselves about where we’re devoting our time and whether we are tending to the connections that help us thrive.”

How to do it

Prof. Waldinger also shares seven keystones of social fitness — and some questions that help you reflect and take action on them:

1. Safety & security
Who would you turn to in a moment of crisis – even in the middle of the night?

2. Learning & growth
Who encourages you to try new things, take chances and pursue your life’s goals?

3. Emotional closeness & confiding
Who can you call on when you’re feeling low and be honest with about how you’re feeling?

4. Shared experience & identity 
Who has shared many experiences with you – and helps you strengthen your sense of who you are?

5. Romantic intimacy
Do you feel satisfied with the amount of romantic intimacy in your life?

6. Help (informational & practical) 
Who do you turn to if you need some expertise or help solving a practical problem (like fixing your WiFi)?

7. Fun & relaxation
Who do you call to see a movie or take a walk with, makes you feel connected & at ease, and makes you laugh?

Not all seven keystones will feel important to you. That’s perfectly fine.

Yet, think about which of them do – and ask yourself if you’re getting enough support in those areas. Then, reach out to 1 or 2 people in your life today. Your future self will thank you.

If you want to delve deeper into evaluating your relationships across the seven keystones, check out Prof. Waldinger’s article here.