The lyrics of an old song claim that when you smile, the whole world smiles with you. Well, maybe not everybody you offer your beautiful smile will smile back, but some people will. Maybe even most people will.
You may not feel much like smiling, but according to UC San Diego and Harvard Medical School researchers, it’s not only smiles that are contagious. Happiness itself seems to be. In 2008, UC San Diego and Harvard Medical School researchers explored how happiness spreads. And as it turns out, each of our happy friends increases our own happiness.
Ok, so maybe this information isn’t all that earth-shattering. Most of us have experienced a good friend’s company that has pulled us up when we’ve been down. Or even made us feel happier when we already felt good. Still, the details are interesting. We really can have influential friends.
Parents of estranged adult children may need to work a little harder happiness. I hear from parents every day who are suffering and sad—sometimes after many years. But happiness is possible. Lila changed her perspective and got happy again. Happy friends can help, so don’t isolate yourself.
According to the study, in-person friends who live in close proximity have the most influence. A happy friend who lives within a mile of us increases our happiness by 25%. But even our friends will benefit when from us having a happy friend—by 10%. Seriously, happiness spreads. So when our friends have a happy friend, we also get happier.
Obviously, the personal component of having a friend who can look us in the eye, see what we’re seeing, and share an infectious laugh isn’t exactly replicated over a computer screen, a telephone line, or in the tiny words of a text. But online social networking may also help.
Get happy online.
One of the researchers for this study also looked at Facebook profiles. He found that that people who smiled in their profile photos had more friends who were smiling in theirs.
It’s long been known that social connections influence our health, happiness, and longevity. This research makes the case that it’s not just the number of people we know, but also their outlook that positively affects our own.
Be a happy friend.
So, what should we do with this information? The researchers believe that knowing our happiness can affect other people, might motivate us each to spread good cheer. We can be a happy friend, and have a positive effect on others.
This study makes me think of the perennials in my garden, which is bursting to life in the warm spring air. Seeing their colorful blooms makes me happy, but each spring, they multiply, increasing my joy. They add more color and fragrance among the duller shrubs. This morning, I found sweet basil coming up, a scented surprise. The Jupiter’s Beard (a type of verbena) have also spread. Their vibrant pink flowers spill pure happiness over the drab garden wall.
Happy friends of all varieties increase our bliss. Even if you’ve been down, consider making a conscious effort to spread and receive a little happiness. Be one of those sunny flowers if you can, and brighten up somebody who’s feeling drab.
Take action in your own community. Can you initiate some good social contact? Can you find more ways to connect and have fun? Could you seek out the happiest people you know?
Or, how about practicing your own smile, and sharing it with everybody you see? It’s a start, and it’s contagious.
Consider “liking” the Help and Healing for Estranged Adult Children Facebook Page, where I try to often post happy thoughts.
You might also enjoy the Community Support Group for Parents of Estranged Adult Children. And don’t worry. All of this happy talk doesn’t mean members of the support group for parents of estranged adult children won’t understand if you’re feeling down. We’ve all been there at one time or another. But hanging out in a positive atmosphere of moving forward does help. And just today, some members were commenting on how much better they feel after joining.
Hopefully, you will think of me as a happy friend, and smile a little as you read the articles here at the site, the posts in the forum, and on the Help and Healing for Parents of Estranged Adult Children Facebook page.