The Washington Post of 2nd March published an article by Colby Itkowitz with the lengthy headline: “Harvard Researchers Discovered the One Thing that Everyone Needs for Happier, Healthier Lives”. The article begins:
My grandmother once told me this little story that stuck with me. One afternoon at a doctor’s appointment, her doctor moved her large purse to another chair and remarked how heavy it was. “You must be very rich,” he said to her. “I am,” she said affirmatively.
My grandparents lived modestly, still in the narrow two-bedroom rowhouse where she’d raised her family since her husband returned from World War II. They didn’t travel, eat lavish meals or shop at the finest department stores. Neither had careers that followed their passions. (She would have been an amazing teacher, he an exquisite artist.) Yet, she genuinely considered herself rich because she had a husband, children and grandchildren whom she adored.
My grandmother knew what Harvard researchers have since confirmed: Relationships are the key to a happy life.
(full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/03/02/harvard-researchers-discovered-the-one-thing-everyone-needs-for-happier-healthier-lives/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_optimist)
The article goes on to describe a number of scientific studies that confirm: other things being equal, people who have healthy relationships with other humans are happier and healthier than people who do not.
The Buddha also subscribed to this view (from SN 45.2, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi):
Thus I have heard. On one occasion the Blessed One [the Buddha] was dwelling among the Sakyans where there was a town of the Sakyans named Nagaraka. Then the Venerable Ananda approached the Blessed One. Having approached, he paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down to one side, and said to him:
“Venerable sir, this is half of the holy life, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship.”
“Not so, Ananda! Not so, Ananda! This is the entire holy life, Ananda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. When a bhikkhu has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, it is to be expected that he will develop and cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path.”
This is why choosing a life partner is said to be the most important decision we make in life. He or she has the power to lift us up or drag us down, to make us happy or miserable, to help us grow or to stagnate. The same can be said for roommates, friends, even workmates.
The Buddha did not advocate relying on one person, even himself, to provide nourishment for growth. Instead he recommended living with people who supported our wholesome habits and intentions, and if no such people are available, to keep to ourselves.
It is wise to periodically review who we’re drawn to, who we spend time with, and whether or not our relationships are leading us in a direction we want to go.