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EPISODE # 329

Marc Schulz — The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

The Good Life: Lessons from the Worlds Longest Scientific Study of Happiness (book cover)

Marc Schulz is the associate director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development and the Sue Kardas PhD 1971 Chair in Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. He also directs the Data Science Program and previously chaired the psychology department and Clinical Developmental Psychology PhD program at Bryn Mawr. Dr. Schulz received his BA from Amherst College and his PhD 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. His new book, co-authored with Robert Waldinger, is The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness.

Shermer and Schulz discuss:

  • an operational definition of the “good life” or “happiness” or “well being”
  • the reliability (or unreliability) of self-report data in social science
  • relative roles of genes, environment, hard work, and luck in how lives turn out
  • personality and to what extent it can be scientifically measured and studied
  • Big Five personality dimensions
  • factors in early childhood that shape mental health in mid and late life
  • changing perceptions of life throughout the lifespan
  • generational differences:

    • Lost Generation (born 1883–1900)
    • G.I. Generation (born 1901–1924)
    • Silent Generation (born 1925–1942)
    • Baby Boomers (born 1943–1963)
    • Generation X (born 1964–1980)
    • Millennials (born 1981–1994)
    • Generation Z/iGen (born 1995–2010)
  • loneliness increases your risk of death as much as smoking or obesity
  • a good life is not found by providing ourselves with ease. Rather it arises from the act of facing inevitable challenges and from fully inhabiting the moments of our lives
  • the most common misconceptions about happiness
  • what social fitness is and how to exercise it
  • what most people get wrong about achievement
  • the first step you can take if you want to live a good life
  • how much of happiness is under our control
  • money and happiness
  • religion, happiness, and the good life
  • colleagues at work
  • friends outside of work
  • love and marriage
  • emotions
  • adversity, alcohol, abuse, and the bad life
  • WISER (Watch, Interpret, Select, Engage, Reflect) model of reacting to emotionally challenging situations
  • WISER applied to restorative justice.

About the Book

What makes a life fulfilling and meaningful? The simple but surprising answer is: relationships. The stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and overall healthier lives. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals that the strength of our connections with others can predict the health of both our bodies and our brains as we go through life.

The invaluable insights in this book emerge from the revealing personal stories of hundreds of participants in the Harvard Study as they were followed year after year for their entire adult lives, and this wisdom is bolstered by research findings from this and many other studies. Relationships in all their forms — friendships, romantic partnerships, families, coworkers, tennis partners, book club members, Bible study groups — all contribute to a happier, healthier life. And as The Good Life shows us, it’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you have, and never too late to build new ones.

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This episode was released on March 4, 2023.

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