Archives for December 2008

Happiness has a rippling effect

Haven’t I always said it?  Happiness is contagious.  Just smiling at people in a room can pick up the mood of a room…and in the process help you keep your own mood up (because happiness is contagious whether you are giving or receiving).

Dr. Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School, and James Fowler are co-authors of a 20-year study called Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network.  Here is the abstract of the study

Clusters of happy and unhappy people are visible in the network, and the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probabilitythat a person is happy by 25% (95% confidence interval 1% to57%). Similar effects are seen in coresident spouses (8%, 0.2%to 16%), siblings who live within a mile (14%, 1% to 28%), and next door neighbours (34%, 7% to 70%). Effects are not seen between coworkers. The effect decays with time and with geographical separation.

In other words, it is in your own self-interest to make people around you happy.  Smiles, random acts of kindness, humor, music…adding all these uplifting features to your neighborhood will make your life better.  I wonder why the effect was not seen between coworkers; it really should have been, considering how close many people are to their coworkers, spending huge portions of their day with them and being incredibly affected by their moods.


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Happiness is slowing down

Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow, was a guest of Christine Louise Hohlbaum at the blog “The Power of Slow”.  Carl offered ten tips on how to slow down the pace of your life.  Here is that top-10 list: 

  1. Downsize your calendar.
  2. Question your inner speed demon.
  3. Take up a slow hobby.
  4. Stop clock-watching.
  5. Rediscover the joys of the table.
  6. Take a walk.
  7. Meditate.
  8. Consider an alternative approach to your health.
  9. Vacation slowly.
  10. Turn it off.

It is comforting to know that I do about half of these, although I am not totally sure that I want to slow down that pace of my life.  I am doing a lot of amazing things and I want to keep doing them.  I would like some things to stop happening – like when a car part goes “Boing!” or when some gadget stops working properly, but I am not sure how to avoid that (other than swearing off machines altogether).

For more details on each of the points listed above, you can read the complete interview here.

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