In the Grant Study, researchers found that the single greatest predictor of happiness in old age was the depth and breadth of social networks [source: Shenk]. By and large, people who form the strongest bonds with others exhibit the most happiness. This holds true among younger people as well, according to a 2002 student survey at the University of Illinois. Students who reported the highest happiness levels all enjoyed solid friend and family connections and dedicated time to nurturing those relationships on a regular basis [source: Wallis et al].
Even if you aren't a social butterfly, it's important to connect with others in some way if you want to maximize happiness. Prominent psychologist Martin Seligman emphasizes the value of conscious acts of kindness. Time and again, whenever people volunteer, participate with a religious group or even hold a door open, they reap the happiness benefits. Like it or not, there's something powerful about helping others that fosters genuine joy.