What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness


The Mel Robbins Podcast with Robert Waldinger


Listen to the Mel Robbins Podcast twice per week, every Monday and Thursday, to achieve the life of your dreams.


This one study will change how you think about your entire life.

Today, you’re getting the definitive answer to this powerful question:

What makes a good life?

There is nothing more important than this conversation. Because by the time you are done listening, your life won’t be the same. 

In this episode, you’re getting the research, the secrets, and some very surprising takeaways from an 86-year-long study at Harvard. The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938 and is the longest study that has ever been done on happiness, relationships, and the human experience. 

Joining Mel today is the director of that study, Dr. Robert Waldinger, MD. Dr. Waldinger is a medical doctor, professor at Harvard Medical School, and a zen priest. He is here to share all of the groundbreaking research and, more importantly, give you the answers to what you need to do starting today in order to live a good life.

You’ll learn the best life advice and lessons from 100-year-olds, the surprising question of whether you can predict if you’ll be healthy at age 80, the simple daily habit that leads to lasting happiness, and more—all backed by decades of research.

This episode is a companion to Mel's brand new free training, Make It Happen

This training is designed to help you make your next 6 months extraordinary.  It includes a 29 page workbook and 2 video trainings that use the latest research to help you get clear about what you want and create a plan to make it happen.

And the cool part? It takes less than a minute for you to get started. Just sign up at melrobbins.com/makeithappen

Connect with Mel:

In this episode:

  • 1:20: Why Mel got so emotional less than 2 minutes in.
  • 5:30: What IS the Harvard Study of Adult Development?
  • 7:45: What made this study especially unique.
  • 9:35: The biggest and surprising takeaway from this study.
  • 11:00: The hypothesis about happiness and its relation to stress.
  • 12:45: Two different kinds of happiness and why it matters.
  • 15:00: What was the strongest predictor of health at age 80?
  • 16:45: Do THIS to improve your happiness.
  • 19:00: Causes of loneliness and how to feel connected again.
  • 21:10: The #1 strategy for couples who don’t feel connected.
  • 23:30? Have social anxiety? Listen to this advice.
  • 25:15: Remember THIS when you’re trying to make new friends.
  • 26:00: How you can do your own personal Harvard mini-study.
  • 27:35: Mel shares what was happening in her life at 27 years old.
  • 30:00: The advantage to getting older.
  • 32:50: What do we get wrong about happiness?
  • 36:40: Quote from Jon Kabat Zinn about life’s challenges.
  • 38:20: How you can be more resilient. 
  • 40:20: This is how you deal with regret.
  • 41:50: What does money have to do with happiness?
  • 47:00: Spending money on these instead of products makes us happier.
  • 48:10: How do we stop comparing ourselves?
  • 49:45: How to find happiness when you’re in your 20’s.
  • 53:30: What kind of relationships do you NEED to have a good life?
  • 1:00:00: If you don’t have a 4 am friend, do this instead and it still helps.
  • 1:08:00: What will help you get the most out of life?
  • 1:10:00: What to hear if you don’t have a romantic partner.
  • 1:12:10: How pets keep us healthy.
  • 1:14:25: #1 pro tip for nurturing your friendships.
  • 1:15:35: Steal this simple tip from Mel to maintain your relationships.
  • 1:17:15: The qualities of a solid friendship.
  • 1:19:45: How to have deeper conversations with your friends.
  • 1:22:00: What if you don’t want a ton of friends?
  • 1:22:55: The most important thing to know about raising healthy children.
  • 1:27:00: What is the line between loving and trying to control someone?
  • 1:29:45: How to help your kids and loved ones meet the challenges of life.
  • 1:32:40: Do this simple exercise to stop feeling anxious or rushed.
  • 1:34:10: What were the biggest regrets for people at the end of their lives?
  • 1:35:45: These are the only people who will remember that you worked late.

Resources and go deeper:

Dr. Robert Waldinger:

More Episodes For You

Health & Wellness
Research & Tools
Health & Wellness

Listen, watch, or subscribe

In The Mel Robbins Podcast, Mel takes you behind the scenes in real-time. Every episode is packed with tactical advice, hilarious screwups, compelling conversations, and the tools and inspiration you need to create a better life.