How we mess with ourselves

Kristin sent me a story about a study that psychologist Susan Pinker (watch her Ted Talk) did where she looked at what factors were related to living long and living well. She had a Top 10 list, and it was truly surprising. Things that we think make a big difference, such as exercising or weight control or being treated for high blood pressure were way down on the list and relatively much less important than the things at the top of the list.

A couple of things near the top of the list, numbers three and four, were smoking and drinking habits. I get that as pretty much a no-brainer.

It was the two things that topped the list that really grabbed my attention. Guesses?

The best predictors of living a long, happy life are: No. 1—social integration, how well you interact with people as you go about your daily life. And No. 2—close relationships, how strong are your ties to family and good friends you can count on. And it’s face-to-face interactions that matter.

I was thinking about resolutions for the new year, and we set goals that are pretty much doomed to fail.

The first question I seem to come around to is “Why goals?” They can be counterproductive to us being happy and content. I’m a failure if I didn’t walk 10,000 steps for 6 days in row. I’ll be happy when I lose those 10 pounds. In the meantime, I’m not content. Plus, rigid goals slot us into a narrow track that often doesn’t leave room for flexibility and discovery. No California or Bust moments, just that steady tic, tic, tic toward more awareness. I mean the people heading for California 150 years ago who stopped in Denver instead did alright, in my opinion.

Like I’m going to save this much money and I’m not going to go out with friends or go on a vacation until I do. That might seem prudent, but it might also cause you to miss that memorable moment with friends and family that truly enrich (see what I did there) your life. And sometimes we pass up the large virtue of generosity because we’re focused on the small virtue of thrift.

In any case we need to remember to be kind and compassionate toward ourselves. That seems like a great starting point in any case for anything. No need to ever beat up on yourself because you didn’t have the “will power” to overcome.

The funny thing is, we focus our resolutions on the things that don’t necessarily make us healthier and happier. What if we shifted our mindset just a little bit and instead of setting a goal to lose 10 pounds, we moved toward paying attention to our eating and our bodies.

It’s not about what we get at the destination. The journey is about what we become, how we grow and what we learn along the way.

Here’s to a long, happy, people-filled life,