Can happiness spread from person to person? Do happy people tend to associate with other happy people? This is just what psychologists found in a recent study. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, examined data on happiness and friendships to answer this question. The data had been gathered on 4739 people from 1983 to 2003. They found that when they examined who knew whom, and who was happy, that they found clusters of happy people in these friendship networks. These clusters existed for up to three degrees of separation. In other words, happy people knew other happy people, and their friends were happy too. Also, the friends of their friends’ friends tended to be happy people as well.
They found that if your friend, who lives within a mile of you, becomes happy, you will likely become more happy as well. This is also true if your spouse or sibling who lives close by or your neighbor becomes happy. This effect did not hold for coworkers. The effect faded with time and geographical separation. The authors concluded very scientifically “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.”
* Be part of this phenomenon. Spread the wealth. Consider who your happy friends are. Contact one by phone or email. Ask how they’re doing. Tell them some good news.
* Take a look at your network of friends. You may want to have less contact with those who are chronically complaining and pessimistic.
* Consider developing a new friendship with someone you’ve met who is happy. You will not only benefit from their happiness, and you will contribute to theirs, but you access part of their network and they become a part of yours as well.
Fowler, J. H. & Christakis, N. A. 2008, Dec. 4. British Medical Journal, 337: a2338