Tag Archives: Friends

How Does Happiness Spread?

“Come On, Get Happy!” Do you remember this 1970 theme song from the Partridge Family? I guarantee it will put a smile on your face if you spend 30 seconds on YouTube to hear it again. I dare you not to sing along. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40egogo4kcY

It’s what came into my mind as I read recent results of a 20-year study on how our social network impacts our happiness. One highlight is that happy people tend to be connected to other happy people, and geographical closeness is important.

It reports that we are affected by the happiness of others in our network, up to three degrees of separation. So, if our friend’s friend “gets happy” then we are more likely to be as well. Interestingly, the number of happy friends you have affects you more than the number of unhappy friends, so don’t feel like you have to dump all your sad friends to stay happy. Each new happy friend you have increases your likelihood of happiness, but a new unhappy friend has little or no effect.

What I found most interesting is the groups of people who affect us most. When our spouse becomes happier, it increases our odds of becoming happier by only 8%. When our next door neighbor becomes increasingly happy, it increases our odds by 35%. A mutual friend trumps them all when she becomes happier, increasing the probability you’ll be happy by a whopping 63%.  Happiness also seems to spread more readily via the same gender. How happy our coworkers are doesn’t seem to affect us one way or another.

Even though many people spend more time at work with than family, I don’t think they are as invested in those relationships in the way we are with friends. Of course, some people don’t even like their coworkers or are competitive with them, so we may not be pleased when they succeed.  As for the neighbors and friends part, why do you think they affect us more than spouses? I believe we put on a happy face for many of those around us, sharing good news and wishing others well. But when we come home, we don’t always save the best, most joyous part of ourselves for those in our own home. We’re tired. We’ve had a long day. We have a to-do list on which to focus. Our spouses may be used to our ups and downs and may not pay a lot of attention to our feelings or reports of our day.

Perhaps it’s a good reminder for us to really be present for our spouses, family and friends, our neighbors, and yes, even our coworkers. We should share in their joys—and pick them up when they’re down. Sing them a happy tune from the ‘70s. You might make your friend’s friend happy tomorrow.

For study details go to http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/dec04_2/a2338.

 

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Do You Make a Difference to Someone?

Do you ever lament that you didn’t live up to a certain ideal or potential in life? Do you wish you could have a big impact on the world? Do you ever dream you could be great at something? I have, especially when I watch a great musical performer. I wonder what it’s like to have such a huge talent, but I’ve learned to just appreciate each person’s gifts. I used to think I should be responsible for something great in life, but I have changed my perspective. That is not to say I believe anyone should be mediocre, but I think small things are a great place to put our attention.

Have you heard someone say “I’m no Mother Theresa,” meaning they’re not perfect? In fact, she was a most humble woman and never attributed any great act to herself.  She is often quoted as saying, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

When you think about how you impact the world on a daily basis, people probably don’t judge your career success or accomplishments or whether your house is perfectly clean each day. But the grocery clerk will notice if you remembered her name. Your child will notice if you made her favorite meal or took a few minutes to listen. Your coworkers will notice if you help un-jam the copy machine and try to be a pleasant person with whom to work.

A November Redbook Magazine article shares small gestures that couples use to show their love. A wife sneaks a dog toy into her husband’s suitcase to remind him of home. A husband surprises his wife with freshly ironed clothes. One man is excited that his wife listens to details about his basketball game. Several of them regularly leave little love notes around for their spouse, either text messages, love letters or sticky notes. These are the little things that keep love alive and relationships strong.

Not to be outdone by the love birds, acts by strangers are highlighted in a recent Woman’s Day article. A mother of three secretly paid for a soldier’s coffee and muffin, and felt good all day. Another was blessed when a stranger gave her and her son an umbrella and jacket while in the rain. One person even gave away a piano he wasn’t using to a child who was learning to play and was visiting a church each day to practice because he didn’t have one.

If you’ve ever been to a funeral, these are the stories that get told, the acts of kindness, generosity and love.  The great presentations given to management won’t be remembered.

Once you feel like you have the hang of doing small things with great love, you might consider upping the ante. CNN recently highlighted the top 10 everyday heroes who made a big difference in seemingly small ways, from rebuilding houses in New Orleans to educating children in extreme poverty or crossing the border each day to feed hungry children in Mexico. Many of them used very small amounts of money to make a great big difference. Go to www.cnn.com for inspiration, or consider supporting a charity close to your own heart.

How will your children remember you? Your spouse? Your friends? What do you hope they will say about you?

 

We Need True Connections

As I jump into the blogging world, we have more ways to connect than ever before–email, texting,  and cell phone coverage all over the world. I’d like to hear from you about how technology helps or hurts your ability to create and maintain relationships.  

In online forums, you may have hundreds or even thousands of “friends.” But in all these contacts, I wonder how often we make true connections. What about your treasured friendships–does technology help you maintain them or does it get in the way, leaving little time for friends? Do you talk to your neighbors? Do you chat with a friend over coffee? Or are you more likely to send a short email or forward an amusing story? Does technology allow you to make great connections that you would otherwise have not made? My cousin recently married a man she was matched with on eharmony.  They were in the same profession in the same town and never had met–a great example of technology facilitating a true connection.

A recent study from American Sociological Review found that the number of people who say that have no one to confide in is increasing–from 10% in 1985 to 25% today. Are we losing our ability to truly connect with those around us, even when it’s vital to our wellbeing? Be on the lookout in your life for those who need to make a real connection today.