Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee

“Health has become overcomplicated. I aim to simplify it” In this podcast, we hear stories from leading health experts and exciting personalities who offer easy health life-hacks, expert advice and debunk common health myths giving you the tools to revolutionise how you eat, sleep, move and relax. Hosted by Dr Chatterjee - one of the most influential GPs in the country with nearly 20 years experience, star of BBC 1’s Doctor In the House, and author of 4 internationally best-selling books, including ‘The 4 Pillar Plan’ – Feel Better, Live More aims to inspire, empower and transform the way we feel. When we are healthier we are happier because when we feel better we live more.

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#364 Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness with Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

#364 Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness with Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

Tue, 23 May 2023 23:00

By the end of today’s episode, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel inspired to reconnect with an old friend, phone that family member you don’t see enough, or make plans for a face-to-face get-together. You’ll feel happier, and even be healthier if you do, because the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.

My guests, Professors Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz are co-authors of The Good Life: Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. They are the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development which is an extraordinary research project that started back in 1938 and is now in its 85th year.

Robert is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is also a Zen priest and meditation teacher. Marc is Professor of Psychology and Director of Data Science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and is also a practicing therapist.

They are both passionate about spreading the crucial message that high-quality relationships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness, health and longevity and, therefore, prioritising how and with whom you spend your time may just be one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health.

We discuss why loneliness increases our risk of death in comparable ways to smoking or obesity and what this 85-year-old study can teach all of us about how to have a meaningful and satisfying life. The study followed the same participants and their families, taking biological measurements and asking detailed questions. Its goal has always been to understand contentment and what it really means to live a good life.

We talk about different types of relationships and how toxic friendships and partnerships can be damaging. We also discuss why frequency and quality both matter when it comes to our relationships, the importance for all of us to have one or two ‘securely attached’ relationships and we discuss the fact that vibrant social lives and close relationships, don’t come easily to everyone.

Robert and Marc share some fantastic insights on what people can do if they are struggling, the importance of listening and being ‘radically curious’ and how we can nurture better relationships with ourselves.

This really was an uplifting and inspiring conversation with two wonderful human beings. I hope you enjoy listening.

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Show notes https://drchatterjee.com/364

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Stress is there all day long. I mean something upsetting happens to me and I can literally feel my body change. Go into fight or flight mode. And that means higher levels of circulating stress hormones like cortisol, higher levels of chronic inflammation. And those things can gradually break down multiple body systems. Good relationships help us regulate emotion, particularly negative emotion. So if we are too alone, we stay in a low level fight or flight mode. So invest in relationships. It's the best payoff you'll get throughout your life. Hey guys, how you doing? Hope you have any good weeks so far. My name is Dr. Rungan Chatterjee and this is my podcast Feel Better Live More. I think today's conversation is one that you are going to find uplifting and inspiring. And I think it's going to remind you of something you already intuitively know that the quality of your relationships determine the quality of your life. My guests are Professor Robert Waldinger and Professor Mark Schultz who are co-authors of the new book The Good Life. Lessons from the world's longest scientific study on happiness. They are the directors as something called the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which is an extraordinary research project that started all the way back in 1938 and is now in its 85th year. Robert is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He's also a Zen priest and meditation teacher. Marcus Professor of Psychology and the Director of Data Science at Bryn Moore College in Pennsylvania and is also a practicing therapist. They are both passionate about spreading the crucial message that high quality relationships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness, health and longevity. And therefore prioritizing how and with whom you spend your time, may just be one of the most important things that you can do for your mental and physical health. During our conversation, we discuss why loneliness increases our risk of death in comparable ways to smoking or obesity. And what this 85 year old study spanning three generations can teach all of us about a meaningful and satisfying life. We talk about the different types of relationships and how toxic friendships and partnerships can actually be damaging. And we also discuss why frequency and quality both matter when it comes to our relationships. We talk about the importance for all of us to have one or two securely attached relationships. And I think importantly, we discuss the fact that vibrant social lives and close relationships don't come easily to everyone. Robert and Mark share some fantastic insights on what people can do if they're struggling, the importance of listening and being radically curious, and how we can nurture better relationships with ourselves. This really was a delightful conversation with two wonderful human beings. I hope you enjoyed listening. Before we get started, quick reminder that it is now possible to listen to each podcast episode without any sponsor reads at all, both on Apple podcasts and on supercast for people who aren't not on Apple. It is only £3.99 per month. That is under £1 per week. And it is a wonderful way to support the show and all the behind the scenes work that goes on. All you have to do is click on the link in the episode notes in your podcast app. And just to be really clear, the podcast will of course continue to be free of charge each week for everyone. This subscription option is simply for those of you who would like to support the show and listen to ad free episodes. Now on the subject to sponsors, athletic greens are sponsoring today's show. Now I get it. You already know that nutrition is important for your physical and mental well-being, and ideally for sure everybody would get all of their nutrition from real whole food. But I know from 21 years now I've seen patients that a lot of the struggle to consistently find the time to get the nutrition that we want, busy schedules, poor sleep, too much stress, all kinds of reasons. That's why I'm a fan of good quality whole food supplements like AG1. One tasty scoop contains 75 vitamins, minerals and whole food source ingredients, including a multibitamin, multimineral, prebiotic, green superfood blend, and more in one convenient daily serving. It helps support energy and focus, aids with gut health and digestion, and it also helps support a healthy immune system. Now, AG1 has been in my own life for over three years now, and I genuinely think it is one of the best healthy supplements out there. If you want to take something each morning as an insurance policy to make sure that you are meeting your nutritional needs, I can highly recommend it. For listens of the show, if you go to athleticgreens.com, for slash live more, you can access a brand new special offer where they are giving my audience a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs. You can check out the special offer by going to athleticgreens.com, forward slash live more. And now, my conversation with Robert Wardinger and Mark Schultz. You are both, I guess, guardians of one of the most important studies and human happiness, certainly the longest running study on human happiness. I think there's so much that you've learned, the so much that we can all learn from your findings. But I thought a really interesting place to start would be with something you've written about in your book, that there are two major predictors of our happiness, our health, maybe even our longevity, and that's the frequency and the quality of our concept with other people. Why are those two things so important? Well, frequency has to do with this observation that when we don't keep current with each other, with the really important people in our lives, that perfectly good relationships can simply wither away from neglect. And the quality has a lot to do with what actually is restorative and energizing about relationships, which is the sense of relationships being stress reducers, the sense of relationships, being energizers, affirmers of our identity, so many different things that we get in a positive way from good quality relationships. So it is, it's frequency and quality. Yeah, it's fascinating because I think if I take a step back and think about your book, think about your research, it's incredible how front and center relationships are. I think if you walk out on the street and you were to talk to people about their, let's say their long jevety, right, their health, both now and then into the future, what's important? I think many people would immediately go to things like nutrition, physical activity, sleep, for example, yet you guys are making the case that sitting above them all, potentially the quality of our relationships. Yeah, it's remarkable. I mean, I think we were surprised when we started to find how important relationships were for our physical health. And then when we started to look at other studies, and it's the loneliness research that's maybe the most compelling now that you see these incredible links with the amount of time that people spend on the earth, the amount of time that they live. It's just extraordinary. And that relationship is of a similar magnitude to the things that we commonly think about as serious health risks like smoking and obesity. So there's so many indications of how powerful relationships are. I think we take them for granted. And it's clear science is telling us that they're important. So you mentioned their relationships and physical health. And I think that's where some people have to make a leap into the dark. I get it. Good relationships feel good. We enjoy ourselves one way and the company of people that we like who means something to us. But how does that impact our physical health? Well, that's the interesting research question. So we're always asking if we see a connection between one thing and another, how does it work? What's the mechanism? And probably the best hypothesis that we have for which we have the most evidence is a hypothesis about stress that good relationships help us regulate emotion, particularly negative emotion. So stress is there all day long. I mean, something upsetting happens to me. And I can literally feel my body change. Go into fight or flight mode. And what we know is that when we have someone we can talk to and I can go home and complain to my wife about my day, I can literally feel my body calm down. And what we know is that loneliness and social isolation are stressors that we evolved to be social animals. So if we are too alone, what we think happens is that we stay in a low level fight or flight mode. The body doesn't return to equilibrium. And that means higher levels of circulating stress hormones like cortisol, higher levels of chronic inflammation. And those things can gradually break down multiple body systems, which is how you could get a connection between relationships and arthritis or between relationships and cardiovascular disease because the stress hypothesis posits that these connections are with multiple body systems. Yeah, there's some powerful research in the book that you share. I mean, there's multiple bits of research that you share in the book. But one I particularly was drawn to, perhaps because I'd been a caregiver for much of my adult life was the research on wound healing. And caregivers, I wonder if one of you could elaborate on that and sort of tell us what does that show us? Yeah, so this is remarkable research done by a husband and wife team. Actually, Janis Kekong laser and Ron Glazer. And what they did is they studied wounds. They did a kind of standardized wound that they put on people's forearms. It was like a punch biopsy about a shallow one. And they photographed that wound across days to see how quickly people would heal. And what they found this is now in a number of studies. So one example is caregivers of folks with dementia, their wounds healed more slowly than folks that didn't have that stress burden. So we see a connection between our stress levels and the nature of our relationships and how quickly our body heals itself, which is quite extraordinary. And other research, they've also found that people who are in more positive marital relationships, ones that have less conflict or more satisfying, their wounds will actually heal quicker. The punch biopsy was it nine days? It was something pretty significant. Yeah, a big difference. Yeah, it was nine days. And you mentioned marriage that I think there was a certificate in the book about this is right now, marital happiness age 50 was a better predictor of good physical health than I think the level of cholesterol. Exactly. Yeah. And our study. Yep. So that was the first that was an early sign in our study that there might be this connection between relationships and how people aged. And that was related both to their physical health and their mental health and their eighties. So extraordinary finding we were kind of surprised about it. You know, is this something unusual about our sample? Is this something that other studies are showing as well? And sure enough, when you look at other studies, there's more and more research from a variety of perspectives and types of research that suggests this intimate connection between relationships and physical health. Yeah. It goes both ways, doesn't it? Relationships and stress because good quality relationships help buffer us from stress. But at the same time, you know, poor relationships can be a major source of stress, right? Yes. And so let's talk about the study that you guys are guardians of and direct us off. What can we say about poor quality relationships? Because it would be wonderful wouldn't it? If all our relationships were great, we can say, oh, relationships are important. So I'm going to prioritize and spend more time on them. But not all relationships and nourishing. Absolutely. Absolutely, right? So I mean, one thing's important, like we think about for us, Bob and I, very exciting this research that suggests these physical pathways between relationships and our physical health. So things like inflammatory responses and immune responses. You know, it's sexy, exciting. It's the frontier. But there are other mundane things that good relationships do for us as well. So, you know, my wife reminds me, did you go to your medical appointment? Did you make your medical appointment? Did you, you know, go to the gym this week? So there are behavioral changes that also flow from close connections, people reminding us to be responsible and healthy. And the opposite is definitely true that if you're in a relationship that's filled with tension, it's a source of stress. And it's also the kind of support that we get. And it's an incredible range of support that we can get from relationships. We can talk more about the types. But if we don't get that from our relationships, we suffer. It can't moderate those stressors that we find. Yeah. Some research that suggests that being in a really toxic acrimonious marriage is more hazardous to your health than being divorced. And so there, it doesn't come from our study. We haven't done those specific studies about negative relationships and their impact on health. Although we certainly have a great deal of anecdotal evidence and a lot of life stories that bear this out. But there is some study that suggests that the degree of acrimonious has a lot to do with health breakdown over time. Yeah. Let's just take a step back for a moment. I mentioned this study a couple of times in our conversation. But I wonder if one of you can explain to me, my audience, what is this study and why is it so important? As far as we know, this is the longest study of human life that's ever been done. The longest study of the same people. It began in 1938, began as two studies that were unaware of each other. One was a study of Harvard, college undergraduate students, 19-year-old young men who were chosen by their deans as fine-upstanding specimens. And the other was a study of boys, often the average age 12, from not just the poorest families in the Boston of 1938, but the most troubled families. Each family was known on average to five social service agencies for problems like domestic violence, parental mental illness, physical illness, extreme poverty. So very privileged group and a very underprivileged group. Total of 724 men. And then we brought in their spouses and we have brought in all their children more than half of whom are women. So now we have some gender balance as well. And so this has now been going on for 85 years. That's phenomenal. I was actually talking to my kids over the weekends because I was chats about who's coming to the studio, what's the topic, and they'd love insuridescing with this kind of stuff. And I said, do you guys know what scientific study is? And they came up with their ideas of what it was and I said, well, you know, most of them are probably two weeks or four weeks. And some really long ones tend to be 12 weeks. How long do you think this study is that Bob and Marking are going to talk about? And you know, my daughter was, I don't know, Daddy, one year, two years. I said a bit more, 10 years. And you know, that I told it's 85 years. It's pretty remarkable, isn't it, that you were able to do this. And it's still going on. So clearly, looking at you both, I don't think you were both alive. We were not 85 years ago. So could you maybe explain how that works where there's still a study going on? But now you guys are leading it. Yeah. So it, you know, it's a combination of luck and perseverance. So this has studied both of these separate studies began, studies that we're going to go a few years, and would answer the questions that they began to address quickly or relatively quickly. And through sort of luck and kind of incredible leadership over the other study continued. You need funding to continue a study like this. So the funding would go dry at different points. And the study would figure out ways to keep going. And it's kept going now for over eight decades, which is just incredible. What's amazing about us, it allows us to track people's lives in real time as they go forward. So the lives of these teenagers in Boston and the students at Harvard, we had guesses. The researchers back in the 30s had guesses about how their lives would turn out. But we've been able to follow them through their entire lives through their, you know, adulthood, middle adulthood, old age to the end of life and now their children. So a lot of it is luck. Bob took over the study about 20 years ago at this point. Can I just ask about before you respond there, what, what is that process like of taking over? Because the previous direct would have presumably have had their methods, their ideas, like how can we keep consistency going when a direct change is? Well, George Valleant was the third director. And he was my professor in medical school. He lectured to my first year medical school class about these men who were then in their 50s, 40s or 50s. And I thought this is the coolest thing in the world, but never dreamed. I dream he'd be the direct. And one day he took me out to lunch and said, how would you like to inherit the Harvard study of adult development? And I nearly dropped my fork and said, I don't know anything about old people because by then they were old. And I studied couples and he didn't misbeat. He said, let's study older couples. And that was our first grant. That was our first project. But part of what was so good about George's vision was that he delighted in our bringing in new methods. I mean, when we started, they had never even been audio taped, let alone video taped. And certainly they had not had blood drawn for DNA. They had not been put into MRI scanners. So George applauded our doing all of that as a way of bringing new methods to study the same essential domains of life. And the other thing is important. I think George had this capacity to really, he was so motivated to understand the experience of participants to really sort of get in their heads to understand sort of what motivated them, how they thought about things with their daily experience was like, and that's really been a hallmark of the study since the 1930s, that when we look back in the files, there are copious notes from interviews. They weren't audio taped as Bob suggests, but there are copious notes. So this was a study that was always interested in people's lived experience. And Bob and I certainly share that interest and motivation. It's one of the great things about this data set as it's accumulated over 85 years. You get to know people inside out from these interviews. Yeah, it's fascinating. I was reflecting on your work this morning before you came to the studio. And I was thinking about medicine. You know, my job is a doctor. And I've been thinking that one of the greatest privileges about being a doctor is that you are allowed into people's lives. You hear things. You, you know, they share with you things that they probably wouldn't share with many people. They didn't know personally and intimately yet. For some reason, you get that insight, which is an incredible privilege, which of course allows you to help them and understand what's going on. And then I thought, well, back in 2015 and 2017, I had the very fortunate opportunity to make a series of BBC documentaries called Dr. In The House. And what happened in those documentaries is there were people within families who were sick, and were under doctors and specialists, yet they were still struggling. And I went into their house to live alongside them for four to six weeks. And through the process was able to help all of these families get significantly better from a variety of different conditions they were struggling from mostly through changes to their lifestyle. But where the connection is to your work is, and I was really thinking about this this morning, I say, why do I have a slightly different perspective on health than many of my conventional colleagues? And I think I've always had that, but I also think that the experience of going into people's houses was very unique. To do that for six weeks with cameras running and, you know, you're recording everything. It's a very unique experience. And I don't think I realize at the time how much I learned, because on reflection, I now remember seeing how relationships, how, like, let's say I had 10 minutes with a patient, let's say I was lucky and I got 20 minutes or 30 minutes in my consultation room, yeah, I might get a bit more information, but I wouldn't see how the family interacted, how the husband spoke to the wife, how the wife spoke to the husband. And I remember starting to draw all kinds of connections, thinking, oh, wow, this relationship is having a negative impact on your health. This relationship is why you are then needing to come for eat, and why you were, you know, in terms of these downstream behaviors, a lot of them are downstream from the quality of our relationships. And I thought you're study for 85 years, that's actually turning it up, you know, 211, on another scale, you're actually seeing and you're getting to know the quality of these people's lives, that the total quality, the 360 degree quality, and a way that no doctor could ever do in a consultation room. Well, I think what you did is extraordinary, too, right, to go into their homes for that length of time. But the study began with home visits from the study itself sent folks to the homes of all the participants, the teenagers and the college students and interviewed their parents watched what they were like when they interacted with their parents. And I think part of what's so powerful about it is that we know Bob and I met actually working in a community mental health setting, which brought psychotherapy out into the community, got outside of the office, that we know that people aren't always the same as they are when they come to medical offices. So that's the amazing recognition and to be interested in that and to see people as you describe just an incredible privilege, we certainly feel it working with the study. Yeah. You know, one of the things we mostly do is live our professional lives in silos. And, you know, so to be able to do a deep dive into someone's life, into their home or in our cases into 85 years of a family's life is such a privilege. And then in addition, I mean, so for example, I sit every day and I speak to at least two people in depth in psychotherapy, taking deep dives into their lives. And every day I sit on a meditation cushion and I watch everything that comes up in my own mind and body. And these are different ways of knowing the same thing, which is essentially the human condition. And I think once we start to break down those silos and once we start to let each one inform the other, we realize that there's a much more richness than we can get if we just stay within our lanes. Right. Yeah. And so are the questions we ask in the research are informed by clinical work. They're for me informed by Zen. The, you know, and so many ways in which things fortunately bleed into each other more and more. Yeah. But that combination, right? So important. I mean, I think this idea about sitting on a cushion, observing yourself, being reflective, so important to learn about ourselves and to use that information to understand others as well. But the combination of Bob is talking about of doing that with psychotherapy, understanding others. It's really important. And very for us, it's been very enriching and certainly promoting of incredible growth. I mean, Bob, you've been the director now for 20 years, a bit more than 20 years. And if you had one minute with someone, what's the, what, you know, the elevator pitch, if you were going to tell someone in one minute, what are the key things that you have learned from this study about the human experience? What would you say? I would say take care of your body like you're going to need it for a hundred years. And invest in relationships, it's the best payoff you'll get throughout your life. Love it. It was under 15 seconds. That was brilliant. And Mark, how would you answer that same question? I certainly would say similar things to Bob. But I also would say there's a kind of basic humanity that we all have when we look hard enough at the, at folks' lives and really trying to understand what their experience is. There's a commonality where human, we're all human. And that comes through when we look at these lives across time. These, these men boys grew up very different circumstances, right? Boston, inner city kids, they weren't that far away from Harvard University, but their lives were so extraordinarily different. But when we trace the arc of their lives, when we look carefully, there, there are a lot of commonalities and their experience that are just extraordinary. Yeah. And one of the things I love about your book, I mean, it's a wonderful book. I honestly can't imagine anyone who wouldn't get something from reading it. It's because you're talking about the human experience. We all have relationships. We only exist in relation to other people, don't we? But the stories you share, yeah. I was thinking as I was reading it, you can make a film about all these different families, you know, the hero's journey, which is what all films will have within it. It kind of plays out in every one of those experiences. It's, it's, it's a story of life, you know, the ups, the downs, how we get over things. It's, it's really quite incredible, isn't it? And then if I think about relationships, so that's your pitch, relationships are front and center of what it means to live a happy, healthy and long life. And of course, we started off this conversation talking about those two major predictors that you write about in your book, the frequency and the quality of our contact with other people. So if we think about relationships, well, the way my brain sees it is, well, okay, there's relationships. How can we break that down? There's a relationship with myself. You just mentioned the meditation cushion, where you sit and you work on your relationship with yourself. And then we start to expand it out. There's a relationship maybe with a romantic partner, if we have one, if we don't, of course, we don't have that relationship with our family, relationship with our friends, relationship with our work colleagues. The list goes on and relationship with the baristas and the coffee shops, right? So there's all these kind of circles that are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So if we're to take you guys at face value, and say, okay, relationships are important, which are the most important? There's no which about it. There's no most important about it. They're all important. What we do believe is that everybody needs one or two, what we call securely attached relationships, that at one point in our study, we asked our participants, who could you call in the middle of the night if you were sick or scared? And most people could list several people, but some people couldn't list anyone. And a few of those people were married and they couldn't list anyone. What we believe is that everybody, whether you're shy or extroverted, everybody needs at least one or two of what we call securely attached relationships, where you feel like someone will be there for me if I'm really in trouble. I mean, that's a great question, isn't it? You want to speak with the latest research. And I mean, I don't know, maybe not in the UK, but in the US, where are we up to with loneliness at the moment? Yeah. So loneliness is a significant problem in all Western countries, and also non-Western countries as well. So, you know, the rates are in the US somewhere between 20 and 40% of adults talk about being lonely. And what that means, it's the opposite of what Bob is describing. It's not having a sense that someone has your back or knows who you are, but people just don't care whether you exist or not. So those are incredible rates. If you think about 20 to 40% in the adult population says that there's no one that really knows who they are, and can they could depend on. So this is a serious problem. The health risk, as we talked about before, is similar to the risk that we associate with smoking and obesity. So this is why there's a ministry of loneliness in the UK. This is why our surgeon general, our top health person talks a lot about loneliness. It's a recognition of the importance of relationships to our health. As we get more and more tech savvy, we can be overly reductionist. It's almost as if if we can measure it great, if we can't measure it, it doesn't exist. And of course, you know, what's that phrase? You know, not everything that we measure matters and not everything that matters can be measured. Right? There's no relationship blood test, right? Where the doctor pulls your blood and goes, yeah, yeah, your relationships are great. We can do that with blood sugar. We can do that with hemoglobin to tell you if you're anemic, but we can't do that with relationships. And you mentioned the West and where I'm getting to here is, if you went to an Eastern country, or I reckon even in the West, if you went and spoke to people and asked them, how important relationships? I think everyone's so, yeah, they're really important. Yet when we think about it through the lens of health, I don't think many of us think about it. Right? Right. We why do you think that is? Well, one of the problems is that relationships can't be measured in the same way. I mean, we can say, okay, I'm eating, right, I'm eating this many calories a day. I'm exercising this many minutes. I'm doing these health behaviors, right? But what is a relationship and how do you nurture relationships? It's much more amorphous, it's messier, it's more complicated. And so to say, invest in this is so much less specific and easily grasped than, you know, do 10,000 steps a day. Yeah, right? And that's part of the problem. It's very difficult to get our heads around this, even though all of us know in our guts, hey, this is really important. Yeah. It's such a great point. Let's go about friendship. There's, I think, friendship really speaks to this and there's a whole section in the book on friendship. It's pretty common, certainly in this country that men seem to prioritize their friendships less than women. Now, look, this is a gross generalisation. I appreciate that. That's not the same in every case. But the loneliest group in this country at the moment, according to the latest research, I've read our men between the age of 35 and 50. There's a very high suicide rate in men. And what's pretty common, and I guess I can probably hold my hand and say, I've been a little bit guilty of this in my own life as adulthood kicks in and you have responsibilities and mortgages and jobs or whatever. Often, we may have really good friends. I'm lucky to have really good friends, but sometimes you don't end up seeing them for quite a long time. And there's nothing like those nourishing experiences with your friends. So, first of all, let's talk about friendship. It's quite a unique, I mean, it is very unique, isn't it? Because we choose our friends. We don't choose our family, but we choose our friends. So can you talk a little bit about friendship and why it's so important? I'm delighted to announce that we have a brand new sponsor for my show, The US Company Seed. 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And you can basically enjoy a 30 or 40 minute session whilst relaxing, reading or watching television. If you go to boncharge.com forward slash live more and use the coupon code live more, they are giving you an incredible 20% off all of their products. That's bo and ch arge.com forward slash live more and use the coupon codes live more to save 20%. I think partly because of this idea that we choose our friends that friendships are particularly prone to distancing that we sort of let our friendships wither. We figure that they're going to work and we don't have to lean in and put energy into them. We talk in the book about this idea about social fitness and social fitness supplies to all of your relationships. But we need to exercise those relationship muscles to really connect with people to spend time to a lot time that we can be together with the people that are important to us. And friends are particularly vulnerable. I think because of this idea that they're folks that we choose and oftentimes we make friends through the activities that we're doing in life. So they might be schoolmates from university that we're no longer doing the same activities. So we have to figure out ways to keep those relationships going. Whereas relatives, I think we often feel that connection around holiday times or family events that there's their ways in which they keep going. But I think the kind of bigger issue here is that there's so many distractions today for our time that all of us spend a lot of time on screens these days. Sometimes doing work, sometimes being distracted could be by social media or traditional media. But we have to really kind of harvest our time for the things that are most important for us. And it's harder and harder to do that with these devices that pull us away from those things that are critical for us. Doing this research, I've realized that I have to start taking my own medicine. And so, you know, I realized that particularly once my kids were grown and out of the house and they weren't like pulling me away and saying, Dad, do this or drive me here, that I could just work all the time. And so what I've had to do is be much more intentional about scheduling walks with people, scheduling dinners out. Mark and I have a call every Friday noon. And we talk, yes, we talk about our writing and our research, but we also just talk about our lives. And I find that if I'm not active, really active every week in doing things with people who I want to keep current with, it'll, it'll, it'll with their way. And so I'm doing more of that now than I ever did when I was younger. And they're definitely points during the life one time as middle age. And you know, we get pulled away from those connections more that we have responsibilities, like family responsibilities, our kids are also calling for our attention and they need us. Late life is another moment when folks are in retirement and changing, you know, their lives in important ways. So any transition is a point where friendships that have been important or threatened in some ways, we really need to lean in and take care of them. Yeah. There's a wonderful story in the book. I can't remember his name now of someone who actually didn't have that many friends through that. I don't like the end of retirement. Yeah, incredible. Suddenly became like a friendship pro. Yeah, Andrew. He was, sorry, Andrew Deering, I think it was right. Yeah, it was just wonderful to read that. And I think, I think it gives people hope. I think that story because if one is feeling, man, I'm, I'm really busy with my work, for example, that I don't have time. This can change. Yeah. The other thing is that he was an example of somebody who said, I'm just not very good at relationships. I'm never going to have good friends. And he didn't have much of a marriage. And one of the chapters in the book is titled It's Never Too Late because there are these real life stories of people who were sure it was never going to happen for them. Good relationships. And then when they didn't expect it, they found good relationships. And so we want to kind of bring this message that that from these real life histories, we have good evidence that there are surprises in store for people. I want to go about that practical exercise in just a moment in the friendship chapter, which I think isn't chapter four in the section on social fitness. It's a really beautiful exercise. Before we get to that, though, just a comment, you know, you said, Bob, that you could just work if left your own devices. And I know how much culture influences what we perceive to be normal or what we end up doing with our time. You know, the our environment has a huge influence on us. And one of the things I'm writing about at the moment for my next book is this idea of heroes. And you know, we kind of worship the wrong heroes, I think, in modern culture. And, you know, we may look at someone successful online, let's say and go, wow, look at their life. But we're just seeing one narrow aspect of their life. They may be doing that at the cost of all their relationships. But we don't see that. We go, wow, they're successful. But are they successful or have they have they traded in the most important things in their life for a better work success? I think this is a massive, massive problem. And that's why I think your book and your research is really, really important. So, what you're saying reminds me of something one of my teachers said, which is, we're always comparing our insides to other people's outsides. These curated lives, right? These supposed heroes, influencers, whoever they might be, right? Who show us these lives that look like they've got it all figured out. And maybe they're working all the time. Maybe they've won the Nobel Prize. But what we don't know is what it's like to live that experience. And what we do know is that our own lives are messy and complicated and have challenges and ups and downs. And so I think part of the difficulty is trying to understand the reality that we know from following thousands of people that there is no perfect life and that it's always a set of trade-offs. I think it goes back to this idea about how hard it is to quantify our connections to others, the quality of them, right? So it's easy to count the number of likes that I have on a post. It's very hard to quantify the quality of my connection with people that are important to me. And I think we all get distracted by that. So, you know, I remember days of my life where, you know, I didn't feel it was a particularly productive day, but I'd say, okay, I spent eight hours or 10 hours today working, right? There's a way that we quantify our lives that helps us kind of justify or make sense, meaning of our lives. And I think we can run down the wrong path sometimes in that way. Money is the same thing. Easy to quantify, right? Yeah. I've always been incredibly fascinated by cultures which have this kind of prioritization of relationships and frankly switch or built in. You know, the Jewish Sabbath, for example, I just love that as a concept. And I for many months, years, I keep chatting to my wife about, we're not Jewish, but I think the Sabbath is all great thing. Yeah. And I think we should build our own version of that because if we don't, it's too easy to let the modern world infiltrate your weekends. And I just, I just love that no, it's basically a mechanism for me. And again, please correct me if I've missed in service. It's a mechanism where I was saying no, switching off, focusing on those around us is important. So we're going to put it in the diary. Nothing gets in the way of that. I think that's right. And I think, you know, it's incredible. You hear these stories about young people today doing this, teenagers doing this, they get together with friends, they turn off their phones, that they're intentionally leaning into their connections and trying to move those distractions away. Right. So they're becoming anti-technology in a certain way. The trick, of course, is to figure out ways to use the technology in ways that are going to help us. But I think there are lots of movements out there. And the Sabbath is a wonderful example, but there are lots of other examples. Yeah. I do retreats every, every couple months. I do a Zen retreat where for two or three days, I'm with a group of people and we sit silently and we walk and we eat very mindfully. It's really spending time just doing a deep dive into the simplest aspects of being alive. And of course, no phones, no real connections with the outside world. And we come away refreshed and sort of amazed at what it's like when you slow down and simplify everything. Here's different. I mean, I've seen it. And Barma's different after a retreat. This is really interesting. So are these people you know? Some of them I know, some of them I don't know. Okay. So this is really interesting. So we've been talking about friendship. And clearly, those are people we know and we've chosen. But what you're kind of sharing here is how the acts of pausing, stepping outside of your life and doing something together in community, even if you don't know them, it's incredibly powerful. Yes. Yes. It's one of the things we say is it's very much alone and together. And that's what you're doing. You are sitting alone, walking alone and you're very much with other people. What's some more examples of equivalent things that people can think about in their own life? Like what's the principle that people can take away? I mean, that's what I think is important because sometimes people say, oh, I should meditate, but it's not for me. Well, meditation isn't for everybody. That really, I think what we hope everyone can find is something where they're in what we might think of as a state of flow, where they're in a situation where they are completely absorbed and where time just passes by effortlessly, right? That could be playing music. That could be walking in the woods. That could be gardening. It could be so many things. But I think for each of us, there may be an activity that allows us to be fully absorbed. And it's very nourishing and energizing to be in that kind of state, even if you're doing it by yourself, even if you're doing it by yourself. So how does that then fit with the importance of relationships? Well, in Zen practice, what happens is I watch my incredibly messy mind and complicated body and realize, oh my God, everybody has this mind and body, this kind of mind and body, right? And then what happens is a kind of natural arising of compassion for other people. It's not something I have to cultivate. It just happens. And then what I realize is that my connections with other people are different as a result of what I come to see and accept in myself as I sit on a cushion. And part of it, I'm guessing you would say, I think part of it is this ability to be present as well that you cultivate an ability to focus on something in meditation. It might be on your breath or on your experience in some way. And we can bring that to relationships. I can really focus in what I think you might be experiencing really be interested in hearing what you're saying. And it's so rare in this modern world that we give people that kind of attention. And I think that's something you cultivate as well. Oh, yeah. All there are some practices like these, like meditation, like switching off that you have seen in the study for 85 years, like the families or the individuals who are thriving throughout life or later on in life, have you managed to identify any practices that seem to help? I mean, I can think of two that I mentioned Bob may have others, but you know, when we look, this is more anecdotal, but when we look at some of the folks in the study and the gifts that they bring to bear on their life and their families, part of that gift is being interest and attentive. So in the book, we talk a lot about Leo DeMarco is one of the happiest people in the study. And when Leo was with you, he listened to you, his present, he was attentive, his family felt that experience. So I think that's one example that we see. There's another one from some research that Bob and I did years ago, in which we were studying couples talking about an incident in which their partner had done something that upset or angered them. So we were interested in when they get angry, when the heat has turned up in a relationship. And it turned out, it was less important that your partner could figure out what was going on in your head, than your perception that your partner was interested in what was going on in your head, right? So we can give our partner the gift that we're interested in their experience, even if we're not so good at figuring it out always, I'm curious what was going on for you. I'm care about you is really what we've had. Yeah, I remember reading that in the book thinking that is powerful. It's not about right or wrong. It's just showing that person that you care. It's so important. Our ability to give attention to people is clearly key here. Let's just park that for a second because in terms of a practical exercise where we're saying you can measure blood tests, we can measure our physical fitness, but can we measure our social fitness? Well, I think you, guys, have come up with some really quite powerful exercises to help us do that. Now, what I particularly liked that I started doing myself was in chapter four, it asked us to list, make a basic list of the 10 people who populate the center of your social universe. I meant to ask you, can you include kids in that? Of course, absolutely. Yeah, that's a few parts of it. Okay. Some people include their pets. Really? Yeah. Okay, fascinating. And those kids grow up too. Sometimes you have older children who are quite important in that social world. Yeah. So that's interesting. So I did that. And then you've got this beautiful kind of chart. I want to, if you could maybe talk us through it because I sort of feel that anyone listening or watching to this could pause this right now or at the end of this conversation before they do anything else, I think doing this exercise would be incredibly illuminating. Yeah. Well, the chart has two, two big dimensions. One is how frequently you're in contact with the person. So there's at one end it's infrequent contact, the other end very frequent contact. And then on the other dimension on the vertical axis, it's whether a relationship is energizing, whether we come away feeling more and livened by being connected with that person or whether it's depleting, whether we come away feeling drained. And you can put someone in one of those four quadrants, depending on how you feel about your connection with them, how frequent it is and how much energy you feel. And it's not to say that relationships that are kind of draining should be gotten rid of. It's simply that it's helpful to see what these relationships are like. And then whether there may be some helpful changes you want to make. I think that's really the key. Like I remember when we worked on this part of the book, when we first drafted it, the idea of this four-dimensional space seemed like maybe it could work, maybe it might not work. We had a hint, we had done some of this work with folks before, and we had a hint that people found it helpful. And I think what's so powerful about it is this idea of just sitting and reflecting, giving it's a very simple structure, right? These four quadrants, by giving people a chance to think in a proactive way, to reflect on who's important in their life, how much they see those people. So what we find is some people say this person is really important. Well, how frequently do you see them? I haven't seen them in three years, and I haven't talked to them in months, actually. So we want to think life is short, you know, is that really what we want to do? Well, I think it's a brilliant exercise because a lot of this stuff exists in our minds, right? We don't see it written down in front of us. I was literally on the sofa back there at the weekend reading your book, preparing for this conversation. I thought, you know, I'm going to start, I'm going to do that. I'm not going to just do that now. I wrote them down. I started to plot them. Now, I'm very lucky. I've got some very, very close friends, particularly my friends that I made at university, you know, when you leave home and you, you're something all in the same boat together, you have time to spend each day and you experience things together. You know, it's very hard in adult life to then have the same kind of time to create new friendships in that way. But I feel like I haven't seen my unimates in a long time now. I feel I've always had caregiving responsibilities in my adult life. And I've asked you much, my mum has been, you know, really quite unwell, which has taken a lot of my time in energy, which I'm happy to do. I live nearby for that reason. And there's a wider question here for me, which is, we can't necessarily nourish all of these circles of relationships equally or as much as we might want to in all time periods in our life, right? But why I think these exercises are useful because they help you realize that's okay. You've been busy with your mum and dad, right? Carrying from them, that's okay. So you've had to, you know, there's a cost to everything in life. You've had to maybe neglect other aspects of your life. But just be careful. It doesn't go on for too long. I think that's the key I get from it. Exactly. You know, and I think that the whole thrust of the book really is that it's to be more intentional, right, to allow us to take a look at something we mostly have on the periphery of our vision as life is so busy, right? And in fact, we asked our study participants at one point, how has it affected your life to be part of the study? And some people said your questions are annoying or it hasn't had any effect. But most people said this was a really important part of my life because it got me to look at my life regularly, right? And I think that's what we're talking about. What we're saying is if we look at our lives regularly, we'll see what we're doing. And then we can decide if it's time to make some changes, to make some adjustments rather than just letting the days and the weeks in the years slip by. And people right in the works for you, people do this all the time. They're told to think hard about their career and to prioritize things that are going to get you on the path that you want to go on. It's in this fear that we often, we just neglect it. We don't have enough encouragement. And I want to say one other thing I'm thinking about your children, how old are your children? 12 and 10 at the moment. 12 and 10. So, you know, the care that you're giving your mom, the attention that you're giving your mom is important for your mom. It's also a gift to your children. It's a, it's a, your demonstrating for them what a loving relative does for someone that they really care about. And I think we might think about our relationships with friends in the same ways that my kids, when they would see me with an old friend, they relish that to see what dad's old friend was like. And this idea that nerdy old dad had a friend that he spent a lot of time with and that joy. So I think there are ways in which we end up, you know, kind of deprioritizing relationships because they're not important or it would be selfish to do it. But there's a way that they also benefit those around us. Yeah, it's a really great point that I think a lot about what am I modeling for my children exactly? It's that it's for me that the most important thing to me as a parent is not what I'm saying. It's what am I showing them? Exactly. And I honestly, from my heart, I really appreciate what you just said because sometimes I have felt guilty when I go around to moms and I think, yeah, but I need to be there for the kids as well. But ultimately, you know, I'm showing them, hey, it's important to care for people. And that you're there. Right. People need you. Yeah. And something that's coming up, you know, this weekend is a really good friend of mine from America is going to be a London. And he can't make it up to my house. He did last time I was there and he can't. And you know, I could make a million reasons why I'm too busy to go down. But I know this is important. And my wife and I are going to go down. The kids are going to be with my wife's parents. So they're going to have a blast with their grandparents. Right. Will I guess connect on the train down and have a bit of time to ourselves, which you've not had in a while. Then we're going to hang out with one of my closest friends who, again, I've only met in the last six, seven years, but has become a very, very close person to me and an important person. So we can, no matter where we are, if we can take the pulse on where our life is with respect to our relationships, we can start to make a change, can't we? Yeah. When our original participants got to be about 80, we asked them to look back on their lives and we asked them, what do you regret the most and what are you proudest of? And one of the most frequent regrets was I didn't spend enough time with people I care about. And I spent too much time at work. Yeah. And so it's really, it's a cliche for a reason when people say nobody, nobody on their deathbed ever wishes that they'd spend more time at the office. And so your decision to say, look, this, this friend is really important to me. I'm going to make sure we get together is one of those things you'll look back on and be glad you did. Yeah. It's interesting. And when you see these human experiences, the way people describe them showing up in different settings, you get more and more sure that there's a signal coming here that is saying there's something important. So I'm sure you're aware of the book by Bronny Care, five regrets of the dying. She's basically a palliative care nurse who spent years looking at the people at the end of their lives. And her book is about the five regrets of the dying. What do people commonly say at the end of their life? And it is, I wish I'd worked less. I wish I spent more time with my friends and family. I wish I'd allowed myself to be happy. I wish I lived my life. I'm not the life that other people expect. I mean, I think your research has shown there's a bit of a male, female splits when it comes to what do we regret at the end of our lives? The women said more about I wish I hadn't spent so much time worrying about what other people thought. Really? And what did the men more commonly say? It was about wishing they had spent more time with family and being kinder to people that were important to them. Now this is a generation that was born in the 1910s, 20s, 30s, right? Really important to say. We talked a little bit about gender differences before. I think people are becoming more alike in this way. The men who are lonely know that they're lonely. They long for those connections, right? So what the research suggests, and this was surprising. I think to Bob and I, when we did a deep dive in the research, is that the gender differences that we associate with a stereotype of male and female friendships, they're really very minimal gender differences, actually, in the friendships of men and women. The differences in sometimes in the quality of them. So women may be more likely to talk right away about more intimate connections or more intimate experiences that they have with their friendships. Men might be more likely to do things in parallel, right? Activities in which they are engaged in parallel in some ways, not looking at each other. That may be when they can be more intimate. So there might be some differences that we might think about as more on the surface, but deep down we all need these connections. And I think when you look at younger men these days, it's extraordinary some of the connections that they make and the ways that they do it. It's just amazing. It's interesting to me that around my house, if I ever go for a walk, I think I mentioned this once on the podcast before, but I've always noticed that it's very common for me to see women walking with other women. And they're catching up and they're walking together. And if I think about my wife, she will literally schedule three or four walks a week with her friends. And she'll go out and it's she's getting a exercise and she's catching up. And I don't. I like many other men I see out walking or running. It's done solo by oneself. And then I'm drawn back to one a conversation I had, I think back in October last year on this show, which had a real impact on me, the Kenyan marathon runner, Elid Kichogi. It's really lucky to have the opportunity to sit down with him when he was in London. And he's the fastest marathon runner in history. And he lives in trains in Kenya. And one of the most striking things from that conversation that I think about often is that he said he never trains by himself. That's a never they always run together. I'm thinking, wait a minute, you're the fastest guy in the planet, right? And so part of you thinking, how can anyone train with you? Right? But he's not, no, why would I run by myself? Like we need to show if I'm not showing up. Someone's going to be on the phone and say, Hey, Elid, are you okay? Where are you? Where is in the West? It's very common for us to live these individualistic lives where we work by ourselves. And then we try and decompress by ourselves, which really is not really supporting our mental well-being. Is that I think that's right? Although I want to say both Bob and I will do date walks with friends. I certainly do it. And we're all get together with friends. And it's very efficient, as you say. Now my kids are older. So it's easier for me to do. But the kids are older. But we also need to think about sports. So I played a lot of, I played pick up basketball when I was younger. And I love the basketball. I love what it did to my body. I love competing. But I also love that when we were done with sitting chat while we were kind of, you know, sweating less and rehydrating. And as an older person, I play a lot of racket sports. And part of what I really like is between points, as we're getting ready to play. So there's a camaraderie that comes with doing shared activities as well. And I think that's really important for both men and women. And that obviously has been something over the last two or three years harder to do. Which is, well, I think many people, what I've observed happening is they used to do things. That's something simple like a yoga class. They used to go to a weekly yoga class. And, you know, it was in their diary, even if they were tired, you know, it was just a routine they would go. And they'd end up yes, practicing yoga. But also meeting people, maybe they weren't the closest friends, but they were community. And who were interested in something similar. And then during the restrictions of the pandemic, many things went to zoom. And I feel because of an inertia to change to often we as humans have a lot of the time it stayed on zoom because we feel it's convenient. I don't think to get anywhere. I don't need to get the card. I don't need to park. But there's a cost to convenience. Absolutely. Sure. You gain a bit of time by not having to change and travel somewhere and whatever. But you lose a whole lot more. And it's circling back to your study. If we are making the case that relationships are the most important thing for our health and happiness, we've got to be very careful how much of these things we sort of let go off to sort of save time. Absolutely. Yeah. So, I think you're talking about this transactional quality or efficiency model. And we forget. So I certainly understand I work at a setting that went remote during the pandemic. I teach at a university. And there were advantages for all of us in terms of the efficiencies that we could build in. We had more time in some ways for others. People don't always use that time effectively for what's most important. But more importantly, we are losing those connections. So the informal stuff that happened before meetings, the chatter at the water cooler. We're losing all of that at work when we move things remotely. So I think this is a real challenge for society. One of the things we know is that emotion is filtered on screens. So that on Zoom, there's a whole quality of emotional interaction that simply cannot pass through the screen. Right. We don't know exactly what gets filtered and what that does to our sense of connectedness, but we know there are there are filters. And so for example, I mean, when you've come together finally after the lockdown of the pandemic, when you've come together in person with people, you can feel this upsurge of energy like, whoa, here we are together again. So we know that there has been a kind of limiting, a kind of truncation of qualities of interaction that we have yet to fully understand. And hopefully research will begin to elucidate more of what gets lost in those interactions. Again, so many benefits, right? It's time saving. But at what cost do we get those benefits? And there's a couple of things that when I was writing about this element last year, you know, on a Zoom, you're not actually making eye contacts. To make eye contact, you would have to look up at the top of the webcam so that they see you're right, but then you're not looking at them. Right. So you're not making eye contact, which is a basic part of human connection. If I think about this podcast, right, before March 2020, I had never, ever done a remote conversation. In the chat, I wouldn't do it. It always would be in person. And yes, I've adapted, and I now do some remote conversations, although I prefer not to. And one of the things I've noticed is people who've been to the studio, I feel like I know them. Absolutely. Afterwards, even they will talk for 90 minutes, two hours, and then you'll be going off. We've had a coffee together before, and we've had a bit of water cooler chatter beforehand. And afterwards, I've seen you, I've seen your body language. I've connected it in a different way, whereas when it's a Zoom conversation, it kind of feels very transactional, where there's no real banter beforehand or after. Sometimes you can even see the guest, you know, checking or semi-replaint to a message or an email whilst you're on. And it's very obvious to the other person when that's happening. And we think we're doing it on the slide. But you can see clearly when their eyes have gone off and they're actually doing something else. So I think, you know, we know as Bob suggested that the emotions are dampened. I think there is research that suggests that we've done a little bit of that research. The other thing that gets dampened, I was listening, you know, attentively as you were talking, it's all that body language that's below the Zoom window that we miss. We don't know what's going on on people's bodies. And I think that's both a little bit aversive to us. And also probably alerts our fear response, our threat response. What exactly is wrong in doing below the window there? So I think there are challenges, there are real challenges to these technologies. They also bring great benefit. You know, we're just out of a pandemic and they brought people together when we needed to be social distance. But they also create challenges that I think people are just becoming aware of. I had an interaction. I didn't share this with Bob yet, but a colleague at work said to me, I'm reading your book. And now I get totally what you keep insisting on us, meaning in person as opposed to Zoom, I didn't get it before. Right. And I think we all need to think and reflect on what it is like it's a joy being together in the studio with you. It would be very different to me. It'd be very different. Yeah. Yeah. Game outside exercise we mentioned. I felt the two different elements of it were very, very powerful, frequency and infrequency. Okay. Very simple. Like, okay, this person is important to me. I'm not seeing them very much or I am great. I'm seeing them loads or I'm not seeing them enough. Can I take some steps to change that? But the other element was energizing or depleting. I think this is really, really interesting. Now, when I did it with the 10 that I wrote down, there was no one in the depleting, right? And I suspect if I did that 10 years ago, I think there would have been a few in the depleting. And I think this speaks to maybe the meditation cushion or time by yourself. I personally feel that by doing a lot of the, you know, for once about better term, the inner work sitting with my thoughts, understanding my emotions, I feel some of those relationships that may well have been depleting five, 10 years ago. I still have relationships, but I've changed the way I perceive them. I've taken steps to maybe put boundaries up when maybe previously there were none. So I wish I had done it now, but I can imagine what it would have been. So I think where people will find this easy as well. They go, they're best friend. Yeah, energizing. Great. Brilliant. I just need to spend a bit more time seeing them or scheduling time with them. But I think where people may find it tricky is if there's someone and probably, you know, with friends, you can choose not to spend time with them. You know, you can choose not to be friends with them. Now family, your family are your family. And I think many people struggle with toxic family dynamics. So if they have a family member in their life who they're seeing a lot and they put it in the depleting category, what advice would you have for them? Yeah. So I wanted to pick up on some of you said, because it's so important. I was thinking, okay, two ways that you get rid of depleting relationships. One is the way that you describe, which is you grow. You learn new ways of engaging in relationships that you learn new ways of tolerating things that were hard in relationships. You sit with feelings. Maybe that were difficult for you and you're younger. And the nice thing is as we age, many of us learn those skills, we get better at it. Old people are better at it than younger people. So that's important. The other way is you prune your network, right? You get rid of those toxic relationships. And some relationships are so toxic and that person is not willing to work on the relationship. It may be important to prune. But I think the first part is really important that there are things that we can do. We can engage in relationships in a different way than we have in the past that it can become quite energizing. And there's a, there's a, I remember this from my training as a psychotherapist. It was great advice that I got. You know, therapists have patients that they like and they have strong positive feelings and patients who their initial reaction maybe isn't so positive. And a good supervisor will tell you that you need to work harder sometimes to appreciate what it is about that patient that maybe you're having the negative reaction. You need to understand what's going on their life to put your, your, your, your self in their shoes to really understand what their life is like and what it's like in their head. And I think we can all take that to our call of action and our own life to think, you know, this person who I've found hard who's been difficult to spend time with, are there, there are things I'm not appreciating about why it's been difficult? Yeah. What if someone's got a really toxic family dynamic? And actually, you know, they're just think I'm better off leaving that family. Yes, it's going to be tricky. But let's say they were to leave intentionally from that family setting. Can they buffer that? I mean, one of the tragic legacies of a toxic family, of a toxic growing up is not just the trauma that happens while you're a kid. It's that you then emerge with the sense that the world isn't a safe place, that people can't be relied upon, that people you're supposed to be able to trust are not trustworthy. All of that. And what we find, I mean, certainly you find it doing psychotherapy with people, but also just watching people's lives is that when people are lucky, when they are intentional at finding people who don't fit those molds that their expectations can slowly change, their sense of comfort with other people can improve dramatically. And it doesn't have to be with a romantic partner. It can be with friendships. So your childhood is not your destiny, but these legacies are really powerful in terms of what happens to us in childhood. Yeah, thank you for that. And as you were talking, then it reminded me of what you said, maybe 20 minutes ago about this idea that we all need one or two, kind of secure, really secure attachments. It's a human need. It's a basic biological need. And depending on your life and who you have access to, you can find that from a whole variety of different sources. It doesn't have to be your family. It can be your family great. But if it can't be, you need to make sure you you are seeking it out somewhere else. Would you both agree with that statement? I mean, do you remember ball culture in the 1980s and 90s in New York? There were mostly young people who many of whom were transgender and who really did not feel like they fit in their bodies. And they needed to find a way to express who they were, whether it was a different gender, whether it was simply the difference between between being gay and straight. But that these were people who were turned out of their families and they intentionally formed new families, particularly in New York. And it was called ball culture because they would often come together around these very elaborate balls where they would dress up in costumes. There's a there's a TV series you might be interested in watching called Pose. A new POS A, which is a really interesting series of it's historic about that culture. It's on New York. It's probably still streaming. There were several series of it, many transgender actors in the series. So this was this was kind of the quintessential setting in which people who were literally rejected by their families of origin intentionally formed new families. And how it worked, how it for many people was life saving. Wow. I was just going to add that the word intimacy, the roots of the word intimacy about are being known. Right. So we talk about physical intimacy or emotional intimacy. It's the same. It's we want to be known by somebody else and very powerful experience for all of us. It's simple. This idea that we want to be seen and heard and appreciate and understood. So people can get that in all sorts of relationships. And the other thing I want to say that's really critical because I think this is another modern trend that we tend to invest a lot in our primary attachment, our primary relationship and intimate partnership. And that's a lot to invest in one person, all the things that we can get out of relationships. So you talked about the ways in which ourself and connection with others we learn about who we are, the kinds of support that we need from other people, the kinds of fun that we can have with our mates. That there are so many things that relationships give us that it makes sense that distributing that among not just one person, but a collection of people might have some benefits for us as well. Yeah. I mean, that's it's a really interesting idea that we can overly invest in one particular relationship. And I guess if we think about society and culture, it would tell us that our romantic partner is our most important relationship. And I'm not necessarily saying it's not. But I think that focus on it above all else. Actually, I think it's very problematic because I think it means that many people will neglect unintentionally, perhaps some really important other relationships. And we were, you know, one thing I've realized over the last years, we are different with different people, different people bring out different parts of ourselves, you know, literally two nights ago, I did something I haven't done in years. I went out to a concert in Manchester, one of my favorite artists, a guy called Ryan Adams, singer songwriter from America, he's doing a solo tour. And my initial thought, we got the tickets, what six, nine months ago or whatever he announced it. And I was initially thinking, oh, wow, he's not at a height you play through three hours. Man, normally goes to bed by nine. We're going to finish in the center of Manchester at 11. I'm going to be knackered. And I thought, wrong, and this is ridiculous. You love this guy. It's going to be fun. And I went and I, we had a spare take, I text one of my old friends who I'm not seen in ages. And she turns up to the house, you know, 10 minutes before we go. And I just had this big smile. I started to, you know, to, to drop into old jokes that haven't said in years because of my relationship with Claire. And it was just, I, it was just such a wonderful experience, not just the music, but doing it with my friends. And it's an idea that different parts of ourselves come out with different people. Don't they? So it's, it's actually quite toxic to just be investing it all in one space. There's a romantic ideal in the culture now that didn't used to be there. The romantic ideal is if my primary relationship is good, I don't need anybody else. That's a fiction, a complete fiction. Actually, Eli Finkle, one of our colleagues has written a book called The All Or Nothing Marriage where he talks about this and about the idea that we, we imagine that the relationship isn't good. If we need to go elsewhere for some of our fun, for some of our confiding, for whatever else we need. And when in fact the truth is that we get many different things from different kinds of relationships. And we want that to be the case, ideally. And there's a, if we think about what we know, just the basic ideas about a secure attachment and a connection to other people that when we look at infants, infants on the playground or toddlers on the playground, they'll, they'll social reference, we call it. They'll, they'll see kids out there. They're a little nervous, so they look back at their parent and is it okay, right? An apparent nods that an adult relationship can provide that same kind of support, right? So for, you know, a strong relationship, it could be a primary relationship or it could be a friendship that we have. Bob says, you know, you can do this, right? That's encouragement like the kid on the playground. You know, go out and do this. It would be good for you to do that. So good relationships are in some ways outward facing, right? They allow us to have new experiences. They're they're the basis that that kind of support basis that gives us the confidence to try new things. Bob, you want to write a book? Yeah. Let's write a book together. You know, that's what a relationship is about. You know, in a hallmark of a securely attached relationship is where you feel the freedom to take risks because the other person will support it. Yeah. That's ultimately one of the challenges isn't it that people find with relationships, they're messy, they're confusing, there's risk. Yeah. Right. That's what makes them so beautiful and so nourishing, but at the same time, that can be why they can affect us so much when they're not going well, right? So let's talk a little bit about risk. Well, the other thing is that relationships are risky because we're each always changing. We're all we're each a work in progress every moment, right? So it's not like you know exactly what you're going to get the next time you talk to your partner or the next time you talk to your friend because life is constantly changing. And so then the question is how do we keep up with each other? How do we support each other in that process of continual evolving? Yeah. It's interesting as you say that. It's like about this podcast. And one thing I've had to do on this show is accept that the conversation I have with a guest is just a unique snapshot in time, right? It's going to depend on my state of mind, how well I slept last night, what was going on in my life, how your journey up to the studio was, how jet lagged you are. And that's okay. So instead of having an idea on my head of what does a brilliant conversation look like, which is what I used to do. And then sometimes at the end, I'd be frustrated, you didn't cover that, you didn't cover that. Oh, wrong. And you should have done that earlier, you know, beat myself up in my head in the early days. Now I'm like, no, wrong. And you're never going to cover everything, right? It can only be what it will be. It's a, I guess it's a, I think, I mean, you're the Zen master. I'm not, but it feels like it's a very Zen approach. I just accept it. It is what it is. And on another day, if it was raining rather than sunny or cloudy or if it, instead of it being in the morning, if it was in the afternoon, we would be different. So the conversation would be different. Right. You know, if, if you wanted to boil Zen down to one thing, it's the truth of impermanence that just everything is constantly changing. And once we really get that deep in our bones, so many things sort themselves out as a result. You're also talking about ideals, right? So we were talking about this ideal of the sort of 21st century marriage that's going to give us all. And this, we have in our head so many ideas about the way things should be the way we're supposed to be in relationships. And our head often gets in the way of being in relationships. So people fear relationships for good reasons. They're messy. We've all had experiences in the past where we've been burned or hurt in some way that relationships are things in which we're vulnerable. That's, that's a kind of basic part of relationships. And those ideas in our head prevent us often from sort of fully putting ourselves in those relationships. Yeah, those ideas in our heads. You know, our head often gets in the way he doesn't sit. That's a, then if you read the book, reclaiming conversation by Sherry Turk or from MIT, I thought it was an incredible book. And one of the things he outlines in it is about a lot of the younger generation now, find real life conversation is too risky. Yeah. They prefer electronic communication because it means more control, more control. Oh, you don't have to respond straight away. You can write the text. You can edit it. You can get it just right before you send it. Whereas in real life, you're responding in the moment. Right? You can't edit what you've said. You say it. And then, and I found that really quite disturbing when I read that. Yes. Yes. Well, and part of what's disturbing is how much gets filtered out in those forms of communication. So think about being able to talk to each other and sense what what you're feeling, what your emotion is as you're telling me what you're telling me because otherwise it's just the words. And maybe you put the words in all caps or you put some emojis in. But really think about how many emails send conversations off the rails because people don't know how to make sense of what's being communicated. And so these conversations are certainly not equivalent to what's what happens in real time in real life. And I think, you know, one of the things, Bob, and I really interested. So we're working now with the more than 1300 children of the original participants, right? So we studied their original folks until the end of their life. We're now working with their children. And we're really interested in this phenomena, particularly developmentally. So if we think about young people spending a lot of their time communicating with peers through these technologies, particularly texting as the least life like of many of the new technologies, how do you do it when you come in conflict with people in real time? So emerging out of the pandemic when they went back to school together, how do you deal with a conflict on the playground for young kids? How do you as an adolescent deal with someone that you like the same person romantically? How are you going to deal with that conflict with that person? We're a rejection. So we're learning to deal with our emotions in these very controlled ways that don't replicate the rhythms of our daily life when we're in person in real time. And I think developmentally, there may be some consequences that we need to be thoughtful about. If you think about physical fitness, the social fitness, and we're talking here about children, of course, children being able to navigate the relational world is arguably the most important skill they could learn. Certainly if we're making the case from your research that relationships are front and center, the most important things to health and happiness. And I think about the school system. And there's an awareness, even though the time allocated for physical activity, I understand is being eroded away slowly. But there's still an understanding, I think, within the education system that the kids need to do physical education or some sort of movement at some point in our timetable. And people will say, and I would probably say it's not enough. But it's nonetheless there. So physical fitness has a place in the school timetable. Social fitness doesn't really does it. You know, there's a whole field that's called socio-emotional learning, SEL. In the States, certainly, but I'm sure it's going on here as well. Yeah. Where essentially they design curricula for children to help them learn social and emotional intelligence. So essentially, this is what feelings are. This is what it feels like to be angry with your friend. This is what happens when you have an argument. What are some ways to get past and resolve a difference you're having with another person in the school yard? What do you do when you see someone bullied all of those things? And when they give these classes to children of all ages, they find that the kids not only are better behaved and happier in school, less likely to be disciplined, but they do better in reading and math. And so they've done meta-analyses of hundreds of studies of these programs, all showing these kinds of benefits. And so they're trying to start devoting more time in school to these kinds of curricula. And when they give them to teachers, to teach the teachers, often come back to the designers and say, we need this for us to say my marriage is better now. Well, this is better because I'm learning things that I wasn't taught. Well, I think that is going on in the UK. And if someone's listening and they're sort of leading in this area and they want to come on the podcast, get in touch with me because I'd love to talk about sets. But it's interesting when you were talking that Bob, we saw it off this conversation talking about how surprisingly to many, the quality of our relationships, affects our physical health. And then you mentioned the kids who do socio-emotional learning, that affects their grades. Right? So it just speaks to this interconnectedness of who we are as humans. We can't put these little things in neat, tidy boxes. You know, the human experience is a multi-dimensional experience and we need physical education, emotional education. We need it all. Don't we speed this well-rounded, happy, healthy individuals? Right. And because think about it, if you're feeling calmer and happier and you're sitting in school, you're more likely to be able to focus on reading and your multiplication tables. Right? So this kind of emotional well-being, if it's actually cultivated and taught, is likely to free up kids' brains to do some of the cognitive work they need to do. And even to just tolerate frustration, right? Math can be hard and sometimes we're going to get it wrong. So we need to learn how to deal with those feelings, really important. In the same way that when we've got good quality relationships in our lives, we're going to be less likely to comfort eat or scroll for three hours on social media because often those behaviors are downstream consequences of the isolation or the conflicts. So often it's something I'm really passionate about. Often we're trying to change the behavior without understanding what's driving the behavior in the first place. And I think a lot of people would be surprised that if they just work on the quality of their relationships, your lifestyle choices for one of the better words will start often to get better as a natural consequence. I think that's right. I was just going to say one of the first pieces of research that I did was trying to look at what happened during the work day and whether that had a connection to how people were with their partners in the evening. And sure enough, of course, we all know this. Then if we have a tough work day, we behave differently when we're home. But I think there was a tradition, it was a gender-based stereotype that men needed that time to decompress. We talk before the show about the commute as an opportunity for some people to decompress. But there are different ways to decompress. If you have a strong relationship with your partner, you can engage with your partner. And that could be a form of decompression as well. So I think we need to recognize that part of it is managing those emotions. And there are very powerful ways to do that within relationships as well. Yeah, that decompression between work and home life, I think is something that's very important that became front and center of many people's lives when they started working from home. Yeah. If they had the luxury of working from home, which not everyone did, it often that commute wasn't there, which yes, there are many benefits, more time at home, time to maybe go for a walk or a run before work or whatever it might be. But some of the downsides are you didn't get any time. So you go straight from work into relationship life with kids or partner. And I think understanding that that commute can play a role sometimes, is really quite important, isn't it? The other thing that's really helpful, we know is just to acknowledge how you're feeling to the people you come home to. So one of the things we know is that emotional spillover can be prevented if you say, I've had a really hard day. And if you can say, it's not you. It's that I'm a little more irritable because it was hard at work today. That that goes a long way. In fact, what we know is that when parents become severely depressed, one way to prevent problems in their children is to teach the children, this is not your fault. This is an illness that mommy or daddy has. And that it goes a long way to preventing the consequences of what we think of as emotional spillover. So it happens, you know, in the work day, it happens in mental health issues in a family. There are so many ways that we can we can deal with these issues at once. Once we're familiar with them and once we can teach each other about how we're feeling. I mean, what I hear is you share that is communication is so so important. If at many most all related problems, I think we say most, I feel come from a lack of communication, from assumptions being made or inference has been drawn about things that we frankly don't know. And what you're talking about there is a very simple but very beautiful example of just explaining to the kids is not about you. I've got this thing going on, but we can translate that into all our interactions. You know, if we're feeling a bit off, just telling the people around us, hey guys, I'm having a bad day. You know, or don't take this personal responsibility. This is me. Works stressing me out a bit at the moment. So just that's why I'm being like this. It's not about you. I think sometimes we're scared to share, but the risk of not sharing is that people draw exactly the wrong conclusions and it can have real conflicts and relationships that concepts. Yes. There's something you said that also made me think about something in a slightly different way that we have these back-to-back Zoom meetings these days, right? That we don't build in these breaks. And again, we think about it in terms of efficiency, but it's like these micro spillover occasions, right? Whatever is happening in that last meeting, it's awfully hard to leave and then transition to the next meeting. So, you know, we try hard to schedule some time between meetings. We all need bathroom breaks, but we also need mental breaks to give us a chance to transition to let go of whatever we were focused on. And I think these technologies have created the capacity to do this back-to-back thing that we haven't had before. Even for our eyes, there's quite a lot of research on vision and the stress system and how, you know, that concentric narrow focus vision on a computer screen. Actually, that's what you do when you're stressed, right? When you're stressed, your peripheral goes, you narrow your focus. So, just a very simple practice between those meetings. If you're able to, if you can get outside and just look at a tree or just start to engage that peripheral vision, that also helps to de-stress you, relax you, which means that you're going to be much more intentional when you then come back to whatever relationship, you know, whether it's another work call or with your partner or whatever. I want to talk about some practical tools in the book. As I say, I think it's such a thorough book. It's really, there's a beautiful, there's a beautiful blend of storytelling, science and life philosophy for me, which I really enjoyed reading. So, I want to commend you both on that. It's really enjoyable. There's two areas of practical tools I thought we could briefly cover. One was in the, I think this in chat to form in the section on social fitness. We mentioned one of the exercises in there about listing down these 10 people, let's say friends or family, people in ports of people in your life and then plotting them on this chart or frequency and frequency and energizing or depleting. Once someone has done that, and they go, okay, there are some things to address here now. There are, you know, people I want to see more of or there are people I need to work on a little bit more, whatever it might be. You have these, I think it was in that chat to these three tools, generosity, learning new dance steps and radical curiosity. I want to either, if you'd mind speaking to those three, just briefly to help people understand what they can then do. We can take turns. Go ahead. I'll start with generosity. So it turns out that being generous to others, being kind to others and that could be telling them that you really appreciate them, it could be doing something kind like, you know, doing their wash if there's someone in your family or a friend who's experiencing some medical challenges, that doing that act of kindness benefits the giver in ways that are really quite amazing, that givers experience a kind of sense of joy, a sense of connection. There's lots of research on generosity in the ways in which it gives dividends back to the person. So we want to do kind things because we think it's important for other people, but an engaged person who does these acts of generosity also reap benefits for themselves and those benefits are emotional and they're also physical. Yeah. I have a quote from the Dalai Lama about this. He said, the wise selfish person takes care of other people. The wise selfish person takes care of other people because it comes back to you. So practice generosity. Yeah. So what the second one was? It was learning new dance stats. Oh yeah. Yeah. What did you mean by that? Well, that has to do. If we think about a relationship as a dance, that we without even deliberately trying develop with another person, we find ways, I say this, you say that. I know that if I do this, you're likely to do that in response. And that some of those dance steps involve stepping on each other's toes. Some of those dance steps involve gliding smoothly around. But what we know is that the relationships change over time. Certainly. Good Lord. A marriage or an intimate partnership is going to change over time. And so, you know, my wife and I are about to celebrate our 37th anniversary. Congratulations. We have had to develop a lot of new dance steps over time. And we're not the same people we were when we got together 37 years ago. And that happens with friendships too. So the idea is find ways to see where the other person is going and see how you can follow them, how you can compliment them in the new things they're doing in the ways that they're changing. And hoping that they'll do the same with you and change it up. But relationship that you've had for a long time, a marriage is a good example. I can get the style. I can get boring. And I think the idea about new dance steps is also the idea of trying new things. So I know Bob and his wife are taking voice lessons both of them. And they might be singing together on occasion. And also going back to what you said about the simplicity of zan teaching about the impermanence of life. I mean, that really speaks to this. I think a lot of the traps people fall into is expecting their relationship to be the same as when they were dating or when they got married. It's not. You're not the same. You know, I've had a good friends who in a relationship once, you know, very recently said to me, yes, she's just not the same as when I married her. And I'm like, mate, of course, she's not the same. Right. Exactly. Yeah. But it's this false idea that's just like I was saying about the perfection tendency of this ideal on our head that's just not real. It's like, you're not the same. She's not the same. Doesn't mean it's it's all perfect. And there are things to work on. But you can't expect her to be the same person as she was 15 years ago. Yeah. You know, the place we notice it most dramatically is as our children grow up. So I find myself still saying to one of my sons, wait, don't you need a warmer coat when you're going out in this weather? And he looks at me. It's a dad. I'm in my 30s. Leave me alone. Right. And so so we often see that, you know, that that particularly as children grow and change, if parents don't adapt, if parents don't learn to do new dance steps as parents, things get really difficult. Yeah. Now I love that. Well, let's go to the third tool there, which I loved curious radical curiosity. Yeah. So this is an idea again, that that all people are interesting. That if we give our attention to trying to figure out what it is, they're experiencing what's important to them, what motivates them, what their experience of something that we're also doing might be if it's different, that we can be radically curious. And this is a Zen idea too. It's an idea that we can take a kind of beginner's mind to any experience that we've had and say, what have we been missing? What's interesting here that I haven't realized before? And, you know, Bob and I are both therapists. We've been in this business for a long time. We're radically curious about other people. That's part of what nourishes us. It's that privilege that you began the conversation talking about about getting to know people. But everyone can have a taste of that by being radically curious. And it has benefits again for us. We learn more about other people. We appreciate those differences that they may have with us. And people appreciate our interest. That's another key part of it. Yeah. Curiosity is massive. I think it's such an important value to adopt in life. I can't say any downsides to being curious. Personally. Well, it's curiosity with a kind of lack of judgment. Right? It's a curiosity. It's so interesting, Bob, that you're interested in this opera. And I have no interest in that opera. You know, what is that? Chris, I respect Bob. I know he's not a crazy person. You know, what is it that's really important? What is it that's important about that particular work of art that moves you? Right? So we learn things by asking those questions. And it's, you know, it's a privilege to be able to do that. The word Zen has come up quite a bit this conversation. I'm just going to the inside cover of the book. So I remember reading it when they're little off the buyers of that. And under your boss, Bob is a doctor Robert Waldinger's professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And there's a list of other, you know, prestigious roles and achievements. And at the bottom, it says he is also a Zen priest. That really caught my attention. Okay. So first of all, can you explain what is a Zen priest? And then I'd love you to just speak a little bit about it and how your, I guess, level passion for Zen is connected with your professional work. Well, a Zen priest is essentially a person who practices Zen meditation and who takes a vow of service. So one of the core ideals of Zen is to relieve suffering, not just for the self, but for everybody. And being a Zen priest involves taking a vow to devote as much of your life as you can to relieving suffering. So I took that vow in 2013. And so that's a lot of what motivates me to do things like, you know, write this book, to work as a psychotherapist, to teach Zen. I'm a Zen teacher as well. And then how does it inform my life? I mean, Zen is all about the experience of being human, what it means to be alive, to be a human being in the world, to have a human life, which is so rare and unusual, kind of astonishing that any of us is actually alive, given all the other possibilities. And so it's really taking that awareness and constant amazement and bringing this kind of beginner's mind to everything we do where we say, the famous quote about beginner's mind is this, it's from Suzuki Roshi who said, in the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are a few. And so the more I, the older I get, the more expert I get, you know, those credentials you talked about, the more I realize I don't know. And that my stance vis-a-vis the world is to try to constantly be mindful of how much I don't know. And to do my best to be of use and relief suffering where it's possible. Yes, very powerful. Thank you for sharing that. This vow of service is really interesting to me. Over the last few months, I think you book came out in January initially in America. You have clearly done a lot of interviews, okay? Yeah. And you've taken this vow of service. So you've got a lot of research to share with the world. So you're traveling, you're blocking out slots in your diary to talk to people to get the word of this book out there. But of course, doing that is going to mean potentially that we have less time to focus on some of our relationships. I think there's a a wider point that for me, which is we know that meaning and purpose is important for our happiness. Now, many people get that from their work. But there can be this conflict. Can't there sometimes for some people where the meaning and purpose is taking them away, let's say, from their romantic partner or their children. So on one hand, they're doing something that is helping them with how they feel and that's maybe serving others. But on the other hand, it might potentially, meaning they've got less time for those important relationships. I think this is something that many people struggle with, particularly in these kind of individuals that lies where many for some move the way for work. We don't live near family. I wonder if you could speak to that a little bit, maybe in your own life, but also like, is this something you see people having to navigate? Have you seen this in the study, for example, that people have to sometimes navigate this? Of course. Yeah. Of course. So there are folks in the study who talk a lot about as Bob said at the end of the life, we ask them about regrets they may have in their life and they talk about not spending enough time with people that were important in their family, their wives, their husbands, their children. So this is critically important at balance. And I think we can get cut off with achievement, particularly at nodal points, particularly important points in our life achievement, can become critical that pursuit of what we think about as meaning. But I also think that too often, when we talk about attention, there's often this kind of zero sum idea that they take from each other. I think one real trick, and this is something Bob and I have tried really hard to do. And it's something I think we're doing in the book that we're trying to, I mean, writing as a very lonely task, typically, right? Although Bob and I wrote this book together, which makes it much more relational. And we had an audience in mind. We were really interested in trying to bring the research that had occupied, you know, the narrow margins of academic journals for years to bring it to a broader audience in a way that could help them. So I think part of our writing, we saw as very relational. We were interested in trying to figure out how to, you know, help people access this information, how to use stories to convey some of the complicated research. So there's a strategy out there about meaning into meaningful activities, but in a way that doesn't deprive you of connections with others. So we all have people at work that we can be curious about and ask them more about what their experience is like, that we can strengthen those connections as well. Some of us are more privileged, have more time to do that than others. But this colleague that says, now I know why you always have meetings in person. This is how I've chosen to live my life at the university is to have those meetings not to schedule back to back to back meetings because students might want to pop in if my office store is open and they're 10 minutes free. So that's a choice that we can all make and whatever work setting we're in. You know, Ron, I'm back to your question about how do you see people balancing these things? One of the things that's clear is that we never figure it out. I mean, that it's easy to imagine. For example, that you get to a certain point where you've got it all figured out where you've got the balance right and you're good and that's it. I'm figuring it out every single day, making choices every single day. Am I pointing myself too far away from my wife, from my relationships? Or is this is okay to do this, to do this next work obligation or this next interview and that it is always a work for me, always a work in progress. It will never be figured out until the day I die. And up a mind, right? Always important and everything. Yeah, yeah. Completely great. I think when we get that idea that there's this perfect balance point that we're someday going to miraculously stumble upon, and then life's going to be hunky-dory, you've got to just let go of that myth and go, no, no, it's just a case of constantly balancing, reassessing, self-reflecting, going, how are things looking? The way I tried to tackle this in in my book on happiness was I came up with a concept called the core happiness stool. And I there were three legs to this stool. I'm saying each leg is essential for happiness. But if you're overly strengthening one leg at the expense of others, you're going to unbalance the stool and it's going to topple over. And the three legs were alignments, which is when you're in a values and your external action starts to match up. One leg was contentment. What are those things that we do that make us feel calm and content? And then the third leg was control, which is really about a sense of control. What are the things in our life that give us a sense of control? Even though we have to accept the life is uncontrollable, what can we do? Let's say routines that give us that little sense of control. And that's how I, and in that book, I wrote about how you can do a job that gives you a lot of meaning. But if that means you're always traveling in and away in your neglecting your relationships, well, I don't think that's a balance for your long term happiness. So I think these are, as you say, these things we're constantly having to question and re-evaluate for ourselves. Another part of the book I thought was really interesting about, it says, a practical tools was when you mentioned technology. And of course, technology has pros and cons. We mentioned some of them already. But again, these three steps, and there's lots of practical tools in the book, which I think people are going to find really, useful in their own lives, but engage, take the temperature and check in with those around you. I wonder if you could maybe speak to a couple of those, because I think, again, technology is something that's taken us away sometimes from our relationship. So what do those three things mean? So I think one piece of it is this idea again about not being on autopilot, not just letting the technologies take over our lives. So those phones that we carry around with are incredibly effective at grabbing our attention. That's how the companies make money. Fones become more and more effective at the kinds of alerts and notifications that we get. So we need to reflect a step back a little bit and not just let inertia kind of take over in whatever way it might. And really critical. So part of this is reflection and stepping back and making sure that you're prioritizing what's critically important for you. They are not letting that technologies lead us. And engage was really interesting, because I think you've wrote a passage as being, you don't just passively consume. It's not what you were getting up. But some of the research suggests that when we use social media, for example, to actively connect with other people that well being goes up, that it can enhance our lives. When we passively consume, self-esteem goes down, depression goes up, anxiety goes up. And one of the things each person can do right now is pay attention. Watch when you're on a certain platform in the digital world. Let's say for 10, 15 minutes. Just check in with yourself. Is your energy lower? Are you feeling more closed off? A little more sad? Or are you feeling more energized and more open to the world? And if the former turn away from those platforms, spend more time on the activities, even online, that make you feel more energized, more hopeful about the world. And I think it's just so critical. This idea that a technology can be used for different ways. I'm thinking about my wife, and one of the fun things I'd love to do is to watch my wife on her phone, having a conversation with someone. She's smiling as the texts are coming back and forth. So she's in a relationship in that moment. She's engaged in the way that Bob is talking about. So these technologies can bring people together, right? You know, I'm thinking about you. I haven't seen you. I'm so looking forward to our visit together. But the technologies are often used for purposes that tend to pull us apart or make us feel worse. I love that. You know, actively engaging versus passively consuming. I think that's a really wonderful, beautiful takeover people, you know, actively connect rather than passively consume. I thought the third one was really, really interesting. And I think maybe uncomfortable for some of us, check in with those around you. Because I think this is a big one. I think sometimes we think we have a certain relationship with tech. Yet the people around us might say that we have maybe a somewhat different relationship to tech. So maybe you could expand on this one. I think this is really, really important. I think it's absolutely true that we have a sense like for me, it's important not to get distracted by phones and technology, but I do. And my kids remind me of it. So the most recent example is my kids will say, you know, you read your emails out loud a lot. Yeah. And I said, what do you mean? They'll say, you know, Bob, oh, here's a text from Bob. Bob is saying we need to do this. Or, and that for me, like I'm thinking it's a kind of relational thing. I'm bringing them into my world. But for them, they see this as I'm getting distracted, right? That I'm getting emails that keep coming and I might tension as wandering. So they're right. And we need to check in. It helpful to check in with others, our partners, our kids, our friends. We can also check ourselves, but it's helpful to get others perspective as well. Love that. Thank you. Just get back to the study then. You've been studying people for 85 years, right? Which is really mind blowing and absolutely incredible. There's so many stories and so much research in the book that we've not touched on in this conversation. I wonder if you were looking forward over the next 20, 30 years. And of course, one of the strengths of the study is that it's done in a real time. It's not just looking back retrospectively. Oh, what happened? It's following it in real time, which is really quite incredible. But I'm wondering, do you have any predictions over what might happen as society is changing, as culture is changing? Are we becoming less tolerant as a society? Are we becoming more individualistic? We're connecting more on technology as opposed to in person. Do you have any predictions over what we might see in the coming years? I think the strongest prediction is that the things that are most important to us are going to remain the same, that we're all going to care about loving people and being loved and finding meaningful activities. We're all going to want to not suffer and have reasonably sane, decent lives. That continues. And it doesn't depend on where we grow up or who we are. And so in a certain way, there's going to be a constancy. How that interacts with the digital revolution and this astronomical rate of change in technology is something we can't predict. And so the interesting thing about research is that we're not going to be able to really predict what's going to happen. We're going to be surprised. That's the fun of doing research. Yeah. And keeping going with the beginners' mind. Actually not trying to predict is probably the best thing. So you are open to seeing what is coming up. In terms of transferability of what you're learning in this particular group in America, culturally, of course, there's lots of different cultures and ways of living life all over the world. How transferable do you think it is from what you have learnt, stroke or learning, to other cultures? I know you've tried to address the male, female imbalance that initially existed as culture change. You've got more women into the study, which is fantastic. But I think that's a really interesting question, isn't it? How does it play out for other cultures? It's a critically important question. It's really interesting. It's a complicated question always to study. But the first thing to say is that in this book, we worked really hard. Any one study, not sufficient really, to drive science. We're looking for replication when we're talking about science really critical that a study shows a similar thing in other studies. The findings are replicated in other studies. So in the book, we worked hard on looking at the literature and looking at findings that were robust across time, not just the 1920s and 30s, across gender, across culture. And when we're talking about basic human needs, basic relational needs, they're very similar across cultures. We know that from lots of research on the value of relationships or physical health, the loneliness research. But that doesn't mean the character of some of those relationships might be different. So there are some cultures where holding hands is typical for male friends and other cultures where it's not. But the sense of connection that's vital to people's lives, we think is going to be common across cultures. And how much, again, you do cover this towards the end of the book. But I'm really fascinated by this. When we look at your study, you are asking people to reflect on their lives regularly. Self-reflection is very good for all of us. It helps bring presence and attention to how we're living. So as researchers, as scientists, what is your view on the bias that may exist within the study from the fact that people are self-reflecting and, secondly, that they're also volunteering. So we know volunteering is good for our health and so I'm just playing devil's advocate here. I think the study findings are robust and incredibly helpful, but I just want to, on your perspective, on those two things. We know that it's biased. Absolutely. We know that, first of all, no sample is completely representative and ours certainly isn't. Our group of people can't represent the world. And in addition, just as you say, the fact that we are observing these people, we are asking them to tell us about their lives year after year means that they are living their lives differently than they would have. Yeah. And of course, we don't have a comparison group where we can watch or what if we never ask these people, what would their lives look like? So the fact is that we can't we can't ever know the full extent of how we have shaped the lives of the people we've observed. There's no way to know that. However, a lot of what we find is very consistent with what is being found all over the world in all kinds of scientific studies. So we have reason to believe that most of what we're finding is basic truths about the human condition. Yeah. It's the signal, right? It's really a critical idea that we're looking for a signal across many studies, across many areas in the world, across time, right? That's the signal that we're looking for. And we were surprised at how present, how robust that signal is across many studies. Guys, I think you've done a phenomenal job with your research. I think the book is just really a wonderful synthesis of that study, but many other things as well, which I think is going to help a lot of people. I always love finishing off the conversation with practical tips for my audience. And I'm going to come to each of you. The podcast is called Feel Better Live More. When we feel better in ourselves, we get more out of our lives. We can sort of summarize from this conversation when our relationships are better, we're going to get more out of our lives. So, but perhaps for people listening who are realizing throughout this conversation that they have let certain relationships go, they've neglected them, they've maybe not prioritized them as much as they might have. What final words do you have for them? I would say think of someone you've let go or someone you miss and would like to connect with again and simply take out your phone and send them a little text or an email or use the phone to use your voice to call them and simply say hi, I was just thinking of you and wanted to connect. And you will be amazed at how often people will be thrilled to hear from you. Yeah. Guys, do that right now. Pause, stop the video, whatever, actually stop and do that. And then come back and let's say, Mark Sonson, Mark, what would you say to that person? Yeah. So I think another critical idea is it's never too late that those who feel like they just have had a hard lot in life that they don't feel connected to others that they wish their friendships could be better than they are. It's never too late. There are things that we can do starting now with the kinds of suggestions that Bob is offering that can really have an impact on our lives. We see it in our study and we see it in many other studies. Seize the moment and you can change your life. I love it. The book is called The Good Life and How to Live It. Lessons from the world's longest study on happiness. Bob, Mark, that's a comes to the studio. It's been a pleasure talking to you, Beth. It's a pleasure. Yeah. Great. Thank you. Really hope you enjoyed that conversation. As always, do think about one thing that you can take away and start applying into your own life. Now, before you go, just wanted to let you know about Friday, five. It's my free weekly email containing five simple ideas to improve your health and happiness. In that email, I share exclusive insights that I do not share anywhere else, including health advice, how to manage your time better, interesting articles or videos that I'd be consuming and quotes that have caused me to stop and reflect. 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