The Happiness Project

Happiness Lesson From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too ! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in—no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

This Friday’s resolution: Cultivate friends of different ages.

I’ve read so much happiness research that now I often remember some fact or study without being able to figure out where I read it.

I’m pretty sure that I read about a study that showed that people who have friends of different ages tend to be happier than people who have friends of the same age, but I can’t find the cite. So I will just say from the authority of my own experience: it boosts happiness to have friends of different ages.

Take Tuesday night, midnight. I went to the very first U.S. showing of the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince .

I’m a huge raving Harry Potter fan , but I also have two little kids, and I don’t often spend an evening in a way that keeps me out until 4:00 a.m. Most of my friends are about my age, in fairly similar circumstances in how they conduct their lives, and they keep the same schedule.

But I have some younger, child-free, zestful friends, who think that going to a midnight show is fun, that getting in line at the movie theater at 6:30 p.m. is fun, that eating a picnic dinner in the theater lobby while you’re waiting for a midnight movie is fun. And it is fun!

Making time for fun makes people happier. Adrian Gostick’s very interesting book, The Levity Effect , reviews research that shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life; people who have fun are twenty times more likely to feel happy.

Also, people who have novel experiences are happier than those who stay in a routine. If my friends hadn’t planned the outing to the midnight showing, I never would have gone on my own. Having younger friends, who have fun in different ways from me, gave me a great night.

Same thing with older friends. People of different ages have different experiences, different schedules, different bases of knowledge, and different tastes. By having friends of different ages, you broaden the range of your life.

Of course, you can’t just announce, “Now I’m going to make friends of different ages” and make some. Friendship doesn’t work like that. (Here are some tips for making friends .) But it’s something to think about, as you make time for friendship in your day; remember not to let your circle gradually narrow down until you only see people who are in step with you—even though it’s usually most convenient to spend time with those people, because at the very least, you share the same bedtime.

Have you found that having friends of different ages—or different in other ways, as well, not just in age—has boosted your happiness?

* Speaking of fun, for little fun, here’s a video of—well, of someone doing hand tricks . It’s more fun than it sounds.

* If you’re interested in doing your own happiness project, check out the Happiness Project Toolbox .