Recently, I’ve been following a series called “100 Days of Lovingkindness” from Wildmind’s Meditation Newsletter . Every day for the duration of the series an e-mail is sent out with a description of ideas and practices that the reader can try and, hopefully, incorporate into their lives. Here is an excerpt from Day 66 – Appreciation is Contagious:
When. . .you become happier, . . . your friends become measurably happier because you’re happy. (This has been scientifically verified).
And your friends’ friends become measurably happier.
And your friends’ friends’ friends become measurably happier.
Happiness spreads outward into the world through your social network like a virus — although a rather beneficial one.
This may all seem rather incredible, but . . .the evidence for this [from a British Medical Journal article wonderfully titled “Dynamic Spread of Happiness”] . . . is based on a huge study carried out by Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego.
Professor of Medical Genetics James H. Fowler and social scientist Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, have been studying social networks for years, using data from the ongoing Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the health, behaviors, and attitudes of tens of thousands of people since 1948.
The study measures many aspects of health, including happiness. Participants have been asked how likely they are to agree with questions like “I feel hopeful about the future” and “I feel happy.” And the study also tracks social networks, allowing the researchers to see how attitudes and behaviors spread.
Fowler and Christakis have found that if you have overweight friends, you’re more likely to be overweight yourself. If you have friends who don’t smoke, you’ll find it easier to give up smoking. If your friends are unhappy, you’re more likely to be unhappy yourself. And, crucially, if you’re happy your friends are more likely to be happy, and if your friends are happy you’re more likely to be happy.
In fact, if you’re happy you increase the chances of an immediate social contact becoming happy by 15%. And this effect ripples out into your friend’s friend’s relationships.
So it pays to surround yourself with healthy, happy people. One way you can do that is by coming to a class! (Yup – you knew I’d find a way to bring you back to that.) Classes are full of people striving to improve their health and general outlook on life. Be a part of that effort! It’s contagious! According to this study, just by showing up and being part of the group you have at least a 15% chance of becoming happier and healthier yourself. And if your own well-being is not enough incentive, your association with healthy people may enable you to spread that health to everyone around you. The more of us who participate, the more this spreads. Just think what we can all accomplish!
The study also implies that if you’re not feeling particularly happy or healthy, you’re likely to pass those feelings on as well. So maybe these ideas will help you to just try rubbing elbows with a group that’s trying to improve their lives. It can’t hurt and it just might help you feel better. You don’t have to perform in any prescribed or specified way. Just be there and be a part of the group. If you keep it up, pretty soon all those you associate with might start feeling better, too. What a concept!
Hope to see you all in a class soon!