A Harvard study following 800 people over 9 decades “discovered” 6 key factors leading to longer and happier lives. What science has discovered has been known through Scripture since, well, since Scripture existed. Here are the things listed by science as having the most significant positive impact on our physical and mental health, followed by the verses teaching the same principles.
1. Avoid smoking and alcohol (this is the #1 predictive factor for health) “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
2. Get as much education as possible (higher education leads to healthier living) “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
3. Positive experiences in childhood (it isn’t the bad experiences but the good people we encounter amongst the bad experiences that predict a happier, healthier life) “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 8:16-17). “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
4. Emotional intelligence (how we manage social relationships is the top predictor of emotional health). “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10).
5. Mature coping skills (how we respond to difficulty predicts outcomes: if we are blaming, see ourselves as a victim, are passive-aggressive, or use denial, we will not thrive, but if we “do unto others,” use creative expression, look at the bright side, and don’t take ourselves too seriously, we will) “) “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31). "…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11). “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
6. Helping others (this one factor tripled the chances of being joyful into the 70’s and beyond) “serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13). “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31).
So, rather than viewing Scriptural instruction as a set of rules we “have to” follow or we will be punished, view Scriptural instruction as the most reliable self-help guide ever written. Respond maturely to Scripture as beneficial and loving of our lives. Remember everything God does is for our sake. As Scripture teaches, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Vaillant, George. Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life (Harvard Study on Adult Development).