?it’s catching! – Can THIS glass be seen as half full instead of half empty? This Christmas season, remember: laughter can be infectious. You don’t need a sophisticated study to tell you that, but nevertheless, there WAS such a study, which looked at nearly 5,000 individuals over a period of 20 years and discovered that one person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only his friends, but his friends’ friends, and his friends’ friends’ friends. The effect lasts for up to one year. But SADNESS and stress do not spread through social networks as robustly as happiness.

Researcher James Fowler says, “Scientists have been interested in happiness for a long time. They’ve studied the effect of everything from winning the lottery to losing your job to getting sick, but they never before considered the full effect of other people. We show that happiness can spread from person to person to person in a chain reaction through social networks.”

Researcher Nicholas Christakis agrees and says, “One of the key determinants of human happiness is the happiness of others. An innovative feature of our work was exploring the idea that emotions are a collective phenomenon and not just an individual one.”

But alas, the effect also decays with time. “We think the spread of emotion has a fundamental psychobiological aspect,” says Christakis. “Physical personal interaction is necessary, so the effect decays with distance.” (Does this mean we shouldn’t hesitate to give out hugs?)

There are several practical implications to the work, not least of which, Fowler says, might be to take greater responsibility for your own happiness because it affects dozens of others. “The pursuit of happiness is not a solitary goal. We are connected, and so is our joy.

“The effects we observe may not seem like much at first, but consider that $5,000 extra dollars, in 1984, was associated with just a 2% increase in happiness and you see that the power of other people is incredible. Someone you don’t know and have never met?the friend of a friend of a friend?can have a greater influence than hundreds of bills in your pocket.” That’s something to remember in a depression! The lesson? Just hold on, the sun will shine again.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

It’s a shame we can’t see the future, so we can figure out how to get out of this mess. But until the sun shines again, you’ve got Christmas presents to worry about! We’ve got the solution to your wallet woes: our exquisite crop circle calendars make great?and AFFORDABLE gifts! And subscribers get an EXTRA 10% off!

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