Well it now transpires that bad moods, unwanted news and catching colds and flu have more in common than we may have thought previously… Oh yes, my late teenage pub philosophy that one of my college friends be nicknamed the ‘fun vampire’ because he drained all the fun out of you if you talked to him for too long, has some accurate grounds it now seems!
So is happiness contagious? Recent research has now shown that moods and habitual behaviours such as eating, drinking and smoking are contageous and can spread through groups of friends, families and other social networks.
Chris Christakis, a Harvard medical sociologist (impressive title Chris) worked with data from the Framingham Heart Study a long-term research effort that has followed subjects since 1948 (and added some new ones along the way) and recently discovered that if a good friend who lives locally to you becomes happy all of a sudden, then your chance of becoming happy is increased by more than 60%. That is one heck of a statistic. I need to start posting my neighbours and friends joke books and bottles of champagne in order to help myself!
Now then… Maybe this will surprise you even more… He also found during the study that a person’s chance of becoming morbidly overweight increased by 57% if one of their friends’ became obese. The friend being obese affected the individual more than a sibling or a spouse being obese!
I have written about it before and got a LOT of resistance, but I would love to see figures on how we are influenced financially and in terms of financial wealth in relation to our friendships and close associations. I bet they correlate too.
Christakis’ and other’s research strongly point to friendship as the key to power of an emotional contagion. This is to say that in a month when people are prone to getting sick, feeling down and gaining weight, it would be wise to seek out the company of friends who are bucking the trend and feeling pretty good (by leading healthy lives)-even if you continue to be a good friend to those who are experiencing trouble.
So happiness and health, along with their opposite states, are infectious. And while the reality of life bring its ups and downs to us all, it really is important to be aware of how other people, and in particular your friends, can have very real effects on your moods and even your physical health.
You might want to be aware of how much any ‘fun vampire’ friendships are affecting you. I am always amazed when I encounter groups of professionals at conferences or meetings that all align themselves readily with another associate that they like and respect… It can make for some morbid and gloomy meetings and whinge-fests of conferences!
I tell people that if they are keen to reduce weight, they should consider joining a running club and make friends with other runners, for example. If you want to be happier, you’ve got to spend at least some time around happy people. It turns out that even the simple act of seeing someone smile is likely to make you smile (scientists call this empathetic mimicry).
I for one, after reading the latest research, shall be continuing in my efforts to be a source of happiness for others throughout my day, especially when so many seemed filled with gloom. I am certain that upon reading this, you’ll be doing the same, won’t you?!