The Happiness Effect
Time Magazine (December 11, 2008) just published an article about a recently published 20-year study about happiness:
" showing that emotions can pass among a network of people up to three degrees of separation away, so your joy may, to a larger extent than you realize, be determined by how cheerful your friends' friends' friends are, even if some of the people in this chain are total strangers to you.
If that's so, it creates a whole new paradigm for the way people get sick and, more important, how to get them healthy. It may mean that an individual's well-being is the product not just of his behaviors and emotions but more of the way they feed into a larger social network. "
The results of the study are interesting because they show that an individual may not be happy on his or her own, but is happiest in an environment of other happy people. The Slough experiment in Britain could be the right way to spread happiness. Teach a group of people to change their way of thinking so that they become happier and they will spread it within three degrees. The furthest-away people can spread it another three degrees. Eventually entire counties, and perhaps entire countries,can become happy - but only if the happiness spreads more quickly than the unhappiness.