Positive Relationships and their impact on positive ageing & positive retirement

Positive Relationships and their impact on positive ageing & positive retirement

The science of happiness is more technically known as “Positive Psychology” and when asked to sum up the key lessons of Positive Psychology Chris Peterson, one of its most influential founders said, quite simply, that “other people matter”!

In saying this, Professor Peterson was (quite subtly) working to clarify one of the common myths about happiness which is that it’s all about individualism; or that it’s synonymous with hedonism. Now the reality is that we do need to look after ourselves and we do want to have pleasure in our lives but, and this is an important but, real and meaningful happiness is just as much (if not more) about our connectedness with others; it’s about positive relationships (in all the various domains of our lives).

Consistent with this, one of the largest and most famous studies into Positive Ageing, the Harvard Adult Men’s’ Study, found that the most powerful contributor to longevity was, in a word, love! That is, those who were loved and who loved, those who had more and better quality relationships, were more likely (after controlling for other factors) to live longer.

The flip side of this is that loneliness and isolation are increasingly being considered as, quite literally, killers. The World Health Organisation, for example, refers to loneliness as a “hidden killer” and as a variable that threatens health as much as smoking and obesity! And this is never more relevant or noteworthy as it is for those planning for and entering into retirement; so it’s an issue that we all need to attend to and as much as possible, address.

And the good news is that we don’t need hundreds of friends; despite what many think in these days of Facebook and Instagram, we really only need 2 or 3 close friends, confidants in whom we can confide and with whom we can enjoy “real” and “authentic” moments, to gain the benefits of positive relationships and to enjoy a positive retirement.

So to enjoy a positive retirement…

  • Focus on the best in others (and where possible, ignore faults and failings)
  • Communicate openly and honestly; vulnerability is key to building real and meaningful positive relationships
  • Do good to and for others (without necessarily expecting anything in return)
  • Be grateful for the other people in your life AND tell these others that you’re grateful to have them in your life
  • Surround yourself with the right people. Find clubs and societies, groups and communities with whom you share interests in common; then get involved in any and all ways you can

It’s been said that the secret to a long and happy marriage is falling in love many times, always with the same person. I’ve no doubt this is true and I’ve also no doubt that the same basic principle applies to any relationship (in any area of life, including work).

So make it a priority to develop and foster and maintain healthy relationships so you can then enjoy all that’s possible in and from a positive retirement; find others with whom you can be yourself and don’t forget also to allow them to be themselves.


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