What is it that makes life worth living?
AS THE world reels from more celebrity deaths by suicide, we have to start to ask why?
Anthony Bourdain, 61 (celebrity chef and writer), and Kate Spade, 55 (handbag designer), appeared to be living the dream. Living a life that many of us aspire to. These are the people we follow on Instagram and watch on TV. We live vicariously through images of them seen in trashy mags and online articles.
How can their lives not be worth living? How can they feel so depressed living the life that we are sold is so perfect?
What is it that makes life worth living? What is it that creates happiness?
Surely fame, international travel, lack of financial stress and success equals happiness. If it doesn't what are we all striving so hard for?
The aspiration of most children and millennials today, is to be famous. Are we setting them up for discouragement, depression and even death?
To answer the question of what makes a life worth living we can look to the Harvard Study of Adult Development. This is an almost 80-year study of 724 men who either attended Harvard (representing men living privileged lives) or lived in some of Boston's poorest neighbourhoods. This is the longest running study of such a large group of people and their families ever. The outcome after 75 years is stunning and quite counter cultural.
Robert Waldinger, the fourth director of this study (because it's been going for so long) reveals the findings that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. The men most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. No other factor was as significant.
Throughout the study they learned that loneliness is actually dangerous for our health, but just having lots of people around us doesn't work either. The quality of our close relationships is the key. We need to know that we can count on those significant others. We need to know they've got our back!
The challenge for us is that relationships are tricky things. People hurt us and we feel that we would be better off without them. We divorce, we disown, we turn away, we live separately together. All of which can hurt us in the long run.
Obviously, we can be in dangerous relationships that are not good for us or our children and I am not condoning that. But for most of us, it may be that it is far better to invest our time sorting through our stuff and resolving our issues rather than walking away.
It may be worth waiting around just a little bit longer, for our significant other to get it, before embarking on our new project, business or dream. It might be in our long-term best interests to keep the door open. To forgive and try again. Even getting help, support, counselling or coaching to keep working on the issues.
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Those of you who might find yourselves alone for a variety of reasons may like to consider how you can meet and connect with people again.
In the aftermath of a suicide it can be a perfect time to examine our lives and reassess what we are focusing our time and attention on. Are we building empires or are we building relationships? Investing in the lives of the people in our lives, sticking with people through thick and thin and sorting through the issues can at times be challenging and painful, but being alone (successful or not) may not be all we thought it would be either!
Gretchen Mitchell is a psychologist and trainer on the Sunshine Coast who focuses on building leadership capital through personal development and growth. www.lighthouseleadership.com.au Search Lighthouselead on Facebook to find more tools and tips to help grow your relationships.
Gretchen and her husband Chris (a life and leadership coach) are running a Relational Leadership Masterclass, Saturday July 21, 2018. Visit www.lighthouseleadership.com.au/events for more information.
If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.