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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Is Happiness Contagious? Here is one way you can catch it

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 6th 2008

many facesOne of the key questions we all must consider when it comes to our health and well-being is who we surround ourselves with? In a study of over 12,000 volunteers who were linked to one another through over 53,000 ties, researchers from Harvard University and University of California San Diego are suggesting that who we are connected to influences our happiness. They say that you are 43% likelier to be happy if you have a happy friend living within ½ mile, or 15.3% if you have a friend or family member who is happy, or your odds are 9.8% better if a friend of a friend is happy. If happiness is contagious, might it be a good idea to see who we spend our time with?

One of the key things I look for when someone comes into my office is who they surround themselves with. You can have many people or few people in your life, but the key question is, who of these people are actually supportive to your health and well-being? This study also suggests to look for a happiness factor. In other words, of the people you spend most of your time with, who do you consider to be happy or who of these people would you consider to be satisfied with their lives and have a sense of purpose?

Here is a brief exercise to take stock of your social network:

  1. Write your name on the left hand side of a piece of paper.

  2. Draw 3 short lines to the right of your name and continue doing that progressively to the right of the paper.

  3. Write the names of the people you spend most of your time with on the lines closes to you and continue this until you write the names of the people in your life you spend the least time with.

  4. Next to each person's name, write a number on a scale of 1-10. 1 stands for most happy and 10 stands for least happy.

You many notice that many of the people you spend most of your time with are not the most supportive or happiest and those there are people on the periphery who are doing well and could be supportive to you that you're not spending time with. Now may be a good time to think about how you might connect more with those who are doing well in your life drawing them closer to you on this sheet. This is not to suggest that you abandon colleagues, friends, or family who are not happy, but I am suggesting that your time is an invaluable resource and those you surround yourself influence your health and well-being. So, take stock of your social life through this practice right now and see if there is a way to consciously bring those who are more supportive into your network.

As always, please feel free to comment with experiences of this practice or of any thoughts that come up while reading this blog. Your comments and questions can be supportive to so many other people.  

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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