Happiness is Catching

Misery loves company, but evidently so does happiness.

Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, you probably already knew that associating with happy people can make you happier as well. But research has shown that there seems to be a third-degree, indirect spread of one person’s cheerfulness.

For example, say you have a happy friend. Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego discovered that increases your chances of happiness by 15 percent. If the spouse of that friend is happy, it increases the likelihood of you becoming happy by 10 percent. If a friend of a friend is happy, it increases the likelihood of you becoming happy by 6 percent.

“What we are dealing with is an emotional stampede,” Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said. “”Each additional happy person makes you happier. Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness.”

What is surprising about all this is that your mood can brighten thanks to someone you haven’t even met. Evidently, the effect extends beyond the people we come into contact with – reaching friends of friends. In other words, emotion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other for an extended period of time. Think of that!

That means people who are happy boost the chances that someone they know – or even someone they don’t know – will be happy. Because the power of happiness can spread up to three degrees, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend, or next-door-neighbor.

This is not only interesting but also important since happiness has been shown to have a substantial effect on reduced mortality, pain reduction, and improved cardiac function. Other studies have shown that obesity and smoking can spread in social networks, but isn’t it nice to know that we can catch happiness like an emotional virus from others as well? Just like laughter is contagious, moods can also be infectious.

Of course, having more friends increases happiness but having HAPPY friends has a much bigger influence on your state of mind. So find some cheery friends with happy spouses and other happy friends and you’ll have a win-win situation.

And if you’re feeling inexplicably joyful today, you can thank your friends. And your friends’ friends. And your friends’ friends’ friends.


Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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4 Responses

  1. Cat Michaels says:

    I’m doing the Happy Dance right now….thanks!

  2. I’m actually having a cruddy day, which is more common for me than feeling joyful or happy, I’m sorry to say. But I wanted to comment so you’d know I read your blog. 🙂

    I hope you’re having a joyful day. 🙂


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