I like math. Granted I never made it past pre-calculus, but my English major didn’t require anything else and also I didn’t dare go any further and risk slipping my toe into the pool of statistics. Algebra is just my jam, and I’m fine with that.

The main reason I like math is because it’s extremely straight forward. As much as I absolutely love the discussion in my literature and philosophy classes attempting to define morals and truth, it’s nice after a particularly heated argument to come back to the calculator and find that the square root of 64 is still 8.

The unfortunate truth is that not everything in life is calculator simple. No matter how much I’d like to, I can’t plug “how to have the perfect marriage” into an algorithm and let my computer spit out the answer. Although I can’t say I haven’t tried google.

One of the deep questions of the universe that is probably about as far from math as it gets is, “How can I live a happy life?”

And who hasn’t asked themselves this question? How can I be happier in school/work/home? Will this decision make me happy in the long run? Am I truly happy right now? What is the secret to happiness?

Well my friends, there is an answer. It’s no longer a secret. And the best part? It’s as simple as 2 + 2.

The Secret To Happiness

A Harvard Study began in 1938 to follow 268 Harvard sophomores throughout their lives and hopefully discover what life decisions led to happiness.

The study still continues today, and although only 19 of the original participants are still alive, the researchers have now included the wives and offspring into the study bringing the number up to 1,300. This is one of the longest studies of adult life, and Harvard hopes to continue the study for further results.

Some of the original participants in this study became doctors or lawyers, while others led less successful lives or became alcoholics. But, as you can probably guess, fame and fortune were not main factors in a lifetime of happiness. Neither was social status, IQ, or even physical or mental health.

The ultimate decider of happiness across the board was relationships.

How Relationships and Happiness Relate

Researches found a strong correlation between a happy and successful life, and the relationships with family, friends, and the community. And good relationships affected people’s lives in more ways than just happiness. The people who were more connected to those around them had better overall health, stronger cognitive abilities, and even lived longer.

And, I will admit, this wasn’t a direct math problem. The breakdown isn’t “more friends equals more happiness”, so don’t just start beefing up your social media followers. It was the quality of the relationships that really counted. These were relationships that the participants felt they could lean on in times of need.

And it makes sense really. When I think back to the times that I felt the happiest, I think of moments where I was surrounded by people I loved and spent time with. When I list those life accomplishments that make me the most proud, I find each success to be paved by and supported with friends and family. And my biggest, most genuine smiles aren’t made alone in my room, but are created and shared with those in my life who mean the most to me.

So maybe living a happy life isn’t exactly like addition and subtraction because, if we’re being completely honest, relationships are hardly simple math. But then again, there was a time when even Einstein couldn’t put 2 and 2 together. So building healthy relationships might take some scribbling and erasing, and it could require graphing or logarithms, and it may even take a bit of those dreaded statistics. But the bottom line is it will take time. Your whole life even.

But then again, if you don’t spend your life working toward something good, was it even worth living?