We tend to think that’s not true. Don’t we? We often believe that others are so wrapped up in their own lives, what happens with us doesn’t matter.
Especially in our culture—which believes and touts our citizens as rugged individualists—we tend to discount the idea that what others do affects us, and vice versa.
But, it does.
The groundbreaking study by Fowler and Christakis published in the BMJ, found that people who are happy—or become happy—greatly affect the chances that people they know will be happy.
“Happiness is contagious,” Nicholas A. Chritakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University, said.
“You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience. But it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected.”
The study followed more than 4,700 people over 20 years. And it found that the power of happiness can span another degree of separation.
Hm. Makes me think I need to clean up my social network! LOL. But on second thought, I tend to associate with happy folks. They make me smile J
Isn’t it amazing how impactful being happy can be.
Christakis and co-author James H. Fowler’s previous research found that obesity actually spreads from person to person. But so does the likelihood of quitting smoking!
The Weight Watchers organization, along with all 12-Step groups, have known this for some time. Gathering with folks having the same positive goals ups your chances of succeeding.
The implications for having a positive impact on our world are astounding. Christakis and others have found that happy people tend to be better off in so many ways—being more creative, productive, and are overall healthier.
“For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product,” Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study, said. “But our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise. So at a time when we’re facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, ‘Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.’”
Even though this is an older study (2008), its relevance has not waned. What we know more than ever is that we are truly connected—in ways we hadn’t considered before.
One thing I know for true is that when one of my friends, colleagues, or clients has a big book sale, my heart surges. I’m so incredibly happy for them! And that happiness spills over to my own work. It makes me joyous, and yes—more creative. Which in my world is a big plus 🙂
So next time you think your bad mood doesn’t matter, think again.
Now is the time to make the world a better place. You have the power to do so. Will you?