New Book Co-Authored by Marc Schulz Looks at Lessons on How to Live A Good Life

January 5, 2023
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January is the time for resolutions. Countless people make plans for changes they hope will make them more productive, happier, and healthier in the new year.

While getting more exercise or becoming more organized may be good habits to maintain, it’s quality relationships that are most often the core ingredient for lives of happiness and fulfillment, say the researchers leading a study that has been going on for nearly 85 years and has encompassed more than 2,000 individuals, spanning multiple generations from a broad range of  social and economic backgrounds.

The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness is co-written by Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Bryn Mawr Professor of Psychology Marc Schulz. Waldinger is the director and Schulz the associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

Launched In 1938, the first-of-its-kind study set out to approach the study of human life in a radically new way, focusing on what makes us healthy rather than what makes us sick. Since then, thousands of participants—including John F. Kennedy—have answered lengthy questionnaires, and hundreds have had their blood drawn and their brains scanned, and have been interviewed regularly by study researchers. Data collected over decades reveal the broad and enduring power of relationships in shaping our health and longevity.

“When we step back and consider the hundreds of findings from the study over the years, the powerful link between relationships and psychological and physical well-being becomes clear,” says Schulz. “Relationships keep us happier and healthier, period.” 

While The Good Life is built around the stories of two generations of Harvard Study participants, it is more than just a collection of life histories. The authors use the science-based lessons of the study and the latest psychological research to offer advice and strategies related to:

  • How much of our happiness is under our control.
  • What social fitness is and how to exercise it.
  • How close relationships at work can boost our well-being and productivity.
  • What we get wrong about achievement.
  • The first steps someone can take if they want to live a good life.

“Like physical fitness, our social fitness is not something we can take for granted. We need to devote time and attention to building and maintaining our connections with others,” says Schulz.

Many Bryn Mawr students have done thesis research with data from the study and others have been involved in ongoing waves of data collection with children of the original study participants. Students regularly get to use de-identified data from the Harvard Study of Adult Development in classes Schulz teaches for the Data Science program, including a class on Quantifying Happiness.

An offshoot of the Harvard Study is another longitudinal study that followed students from Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and Haverford into their adult life. One future project Schulz is planning to engage in involves archiving interviews from this study for future use by students and other scholars.

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Schulz is the associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and the Sue Kardas Ph.D. 1971 Chair in Psychology at Bryn Mawr. He also directs the Data Science Program. Schulz received his B.A. from Amherst College and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a practicing therapist with postdoctoral training in health and clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School.

 


Bryn Mawr’s Psychology Department offers courses from among a wide variety of fields in psychology: clinical, cognitive, developmental, physiological and social. Majors can focus on more specialized areas through advanced coursework, seminars, and especially through supervised research. The Data Science program is an interdisciplinary collaboration that includes a minor in Data Science and significant programming for all in the Bryn Mawr community. 

Rave Reviews for "The Good Life"

"The authors present consistently fascinating insights about the lives of many of the study’s participants, as well as those in related studies, showing what aspects of life are most beneficial, regardless of age, gender, class, wealth, or status...Throughout, the authors maintain a conversational tone and include many of the questions and exercises used in the study to allow readers to examine their own relationships and to develop them further. The book is perfect for readers of Arthur Brooks, Daniel Pink, Angela Duckworth, and other writers who delve into how to fashion prosperous, fulfilling lives.

"An engrossing look at why relationships matter, featuring an unprecedented abundance of data to back it up."

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"This research—with a birds-eye view of entire lifetimes—puts science and data behind what feels unquantifiable: the behaviors that are the most fulfilling, what bring us the most contentment. It’s not the money, the cars, the big house, the impressive job, or the fancy clothes. Reading this will give you a newfound appreciation for the chaotic beauty of being alive. —Lindsay Powers, Amazon Editor."

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“Fascinating. . . . Combining intensive research with actionable steps, this penetrating testament to the power of human connection offers gems for almost anyone looking to improve their happiness.”

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"For 85 years (and counting), the Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School has been interviewing individuals and their families in hopes of discovering what it takes to live a longer, happier life. What Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the current directors of the prolific Harvard study, discovered is that forming close bonds with others is the key to feeling more fulfilled. Their book offers tips on how to form meaningful human connections."

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