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What Are You Spreading Today- Virus or Happiness?

You might have heard about the umpteen contagious diseases and how to keep them at bay. But the researchers at the University of California in San Diego and the Harvard University discovered another contagious virus which we all live for- HAPPINESS!!! We are sure none of us would like to stay away from it. According to James Fowler, a Political Scientist at the University of California, happiness spreads through social contacts and how it effects others around us.

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The Study
In order to observe the effect of happiness on people, the researchers from the Harvard University and the University of California studied the social connections of around 5,000 individuals. These people were enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study which was going on at that time. They were asked to fill out questionnaires which were prepared by the Center for Epidemiological Studies. The participants answered these questionnaires thrice in the period between 1984 and 2003. The questions were aimed at assessing the depression level and emotional health of the people. To gauge the happiness quotient of the participants, Nicholas Christakis, a Professor at the Harvard Medical School and one of the authors of the study, relied on answers to questions like how often they enjoyed life during the previous week. Or whether they felt hopeful about the future.

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The Findings
When the researchers studied the reaction of the people they found that people who were at the center of the social network were the happiest. For example, in a party, some people would stand at a corner and talk one-on-one. Some would be in the center of the gathering, talking to as many people as they can. According to this study, people at the center of such social gatherings are among the happiest.

The Conclusion

  • Several reasons are attributed to the findings. The place in the center is susceptible to the waves of happiness which spread throughout the social network.
  • The researchers also found that if a person is happy then:
    •  a friend who lives close by has about 25% more chances to be happy.
    • spouse has about 8% chances of increased happiness.
    • the next-door neighbors will benefit out of it by about 34%.

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  • Professor Christakis feels that happiness is contagious and spreads through our everyday interactions with family and friends. The social network can spread happiness by 3 degrees and even reach friends of friends.
  • However, researchers also feel that the emotions are fleeting and happiness can be situational. Therefore, emotional state is difficult to study or measure.
  • The strength of the happiness effect becomes weak with the physical distance. Friends and neighbors living closest to the happy person will get the maximum benefits. Your thousands of Facebook friends, some of them whom you might have never met, do not count.
  • The best part is that the sadness does not have such communal effect. It means it does not spread through the social network.

So, what are you going to spread today- Virus or Happiness?
 

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