My husband and I recently embarked on an 11-hour drive with my parents to visit my sister in South Carolina. You may be thinking, Why drive? Well, for several reasons, driving was a better option for us—my father hates to fly, and driving meant we didn’t have to rent a car while there.

We spent seven days together—my husband and me, my sister and her husband, my parents…and my sister’s dog, Pudge! This was kind of a  big deal—we haven’t all been in the same place at the same time for several years.

This trip did more than just let us catch up. It was good for our mental health…and our longevity. That’s the conclusion from the 85-year Harvard Study of Adult Development that followed more than 724 people and their 1,300+ descendants. This study set out to determine what keeps us healthy and happy. Career satisfaction, exercise, diet? Nope…it is personal connections!

Other findings: The best thing you can do to ensure health and happiness is cultivate relationships. The people who were the most satisfied with their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. On the flip side, new studies continue to prove the detrimental effects of loneliness—greater pain sensitivity, immune suppression…and poor physical and mental health.

The 22-hour roundtrip was worth it—for my parents to have their children with them for seven days chatting, laughing, playing with Pudge (probably happiest of all!). Who knew that the key to longevity could be so much fun?

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