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HomemilastwordThe Last Word: Connections That Count

The Last Word: Connections That Count

What are the best moments of your life… and the worst?

If you’re like most people, the images you conjured up are likely to involve not your individual accomplishments or failures, but your connections with people.

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Buffalo, in the United States, have released a report ‘What Makes Us Feel the Best Also Makes Us Feel the Worst: The Emotional Impact of Independent and Interdependent Experiences’.

Co-author Dr. Shira Gabriel, an associate professor of psychology at UB, said many of us spend much of our time and effort focused on individual achievements such as work, hobbies and schooling.

Too many of us spend way too much time consumed with doing tasks at work over time with family and friends. We don’t want to live to regret it.

But these things don’t end up being the most important in our lives. What really matters are the moments of connecting with others. It is these experiences that bring us the most happiness. They also carry the potential for the most pain.

The researchers reached this conclusion after collating the results of four different studies, involving 376 subjects.

Study one involved college students who were asked to describe the most positive and negative emotional experiences of their lives. Overwhelmingly, male or female, they were much more likely to describe connections made with people (social events) as the most positive and negative things they had ever experienced.

The second study focused on middle-aged participants who were asked to report on a recent intense emotional experience, with similar results.

The final two studies provided evidence that the strong emotional impact of interdependent (social) events reported in the first two studies was not due to the fact that social events were more salient than independent events, and demonstrated that social events gain their emotional punch from our need to belong.

In others studies on loneliness Dr. Gabriel also discovered that people feel a great sense of belonging through illusionary relationships with characters and personalities on favourite TV shows… but we don’t think she’s advocating we prioritise Friends over friends, right?!

It’s the moments when close relationships begin or end, when we fall in love or our hearts are broken, when a life is born into the world or a loved one passes away. These are the moments that touch the core of a person’s life the most… not watching TV, winning awards, hobbies or completing tasks.

Too many of us spend way too much time consumed with doing tasks at work over time with family and friends. We don’t want to live to regret it.

In October 1984, at the age of 43, Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, one-time candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was told he had a mild form of cancer. At first, he decided to push on with his re-election campaign, then as a friend told him, “Nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.'” He thought better of it.

On 2 January, 1985 Tsongas gave up his political career to focus on his health and spend time with his wife and three daughters. He went on to enjoy a further 12 years with his family and friends.