Despite the progress we have made in psychology, sociology, philosophy, biology, industrial intelligence and other fields, man is still lost in assessing his own potential.
He constantly looks for something that gives his life meaning. He believes that this may be in academic or professional success, money, prestige and authority; or in satisfying basic desires, consuming energy, and the days of his life, constantly seeking more.
However, a study spanning 80 years – one of the longest conducted by researchers at Harvard University, USA – has concluded that the most important source of happiness is “good friends”.
Man is the creature that God Almighty honoured on this earth, distinguished him from others by the grace of the mind, and made him a social being capable of communicating not only with his peers but also with previous and subsequent generations, through writing, heritage and in other ways. All the divine and positivistic religions are based on love and respect for other human beings, governed by basic commandments: do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, honour your mother and your father… and others.
Referring to the question asked earlier, then why do conflicts and wars erupt between nations? Do these wars make the people happier, or more miserable? Ambitious, spiteful people believe that their goals will be achieved only by crushing other people. I do not know of any study that demonstrated that societies become happier when they are led by madmen who drag them into conflict and destruction under the slogans of liberation, expansion and elimination of other nations.
How does history remember people like Hulagu, Ivan the Terrible and Hitler? Were they state builders or murderous dictators who caused misfortunes for their people and cursed history? The human evolution, of course, does not stop at those names. Every time a country and bloody tyrants – like those we are witnessing in the aspirations of countries like Iran and Turkey – seek to extend their influence outside their borders, it comes at the huge expense and death of thousands of innocents.
Then, we have Bahrain, which stands out as a geographically small country; but has managed to build a peace model that is suitable globally. It has adhered to its right to build a deterrent force and promote strategic partnerships, but hasn’t attacked anyone, instead it turned to internal construction and brought prosperity and happiness to its citizens and residents. That’s why in many areas of Bahrain we see British, German and Americans who choose to retire and spend the rest of their lives in this peaceful country: Bahrain. Here they weave relationships and build solid friendships, which, as the Harvard University study mentioned earlier, is the source of happiness.
The Harvard Study, which began in 1938, before the Second World War, at the height of the “Great Depression”, demonstrated a strong link between friends, happiness and the impact on health. It focused on the physical and psychological aspects of two groups, one of 456 men who lived in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Scholarship Study), and the second 268 male graduates attending Harvard between 1939-1944 (the Glock study). Given the length of the research period, it required generations of researchers to draw long-term conclusions. It included questions about public life, health, career and marriage, establishing that good friends played a role in protecting people from mental and physical deterioration, more than social class and intelligence.
Happiness isn’t related to your bank account, the area you reside in, or the number of trips you make around the world. The greatest real indicator of happiness in a person’s life is love, familiarity and a comfortable conversation with a good friend. It isn’t related to the number of friends, but rather the depth and fulfilment of the relationship. It shows that having a reliable person relaxes the nervous system, makes your mind healthy, and reduces emotional and physical pain. The data is clear, those who are lonely are more likely to see their physical health deteriorate and die younger.
Put simply, you may have money, a successful career and physical health, but without loving relationships, you will not be happy.