Friday, September 23, 2011

  Pondering the science of Happiness! Learning tingles!
             
The happiness of people in our social networks is much more significant than you think.  Our friends influence what we think of as normal, and that influences our habits, feelings, and behavior, which, in turn, make us happy. Or unhappy. As Christakis and Fowler have found in their research in "Connected"  only 50% of happiness is genetically based, 10% about life circumstances and the rest from our social network. research shows  that our colleague's next-door neighbor's best-friend or office mate --someone we have never met... influences how happy we are!   Isn't that amazing?

“Changes in individual happiness can ripple through social connections and create large-scale pattern in the network,” write Christakis and Fowler, “giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.” 3 degrees of separation.

 Dr. Christine Carter from UC Berkeley sums it up really well:
"Research suggests that happiness is a set of skills we can teach and practice with our children. But, it turns out, the people in our social networks—in schools, especially, because proximity plays a role—are also teaching and practicing things that influence how happy our kids are.
Think about your friends. Are they a little weak in the happiness department? Are they super-busy and talking obsessively about our country’s leadership problems? Are they always complaining about how they hate their boss and how their son’s teacher is an idiot? Are they burdened by a classmate’s peanut allergy or whiny about a hubby who never gets his socks in the hamper?
Or maybe you have friends with excellent happiness habits. Perhaps they are more grateful for what they have than whiny about what they don’t. Maybe your friends get lots of exercise, and enough sleep, have tight connections to friends and family, and these things make them frequently cheerful.
Our habits make us happy—or not. And our habits are influenced, in large part, by our friends’ habits. What do we see as normal? Busyness and cynicism? Or gratitude and mindfulness? Materialism and fancy vacations? Or time with close friends and dinner at home? 
Make no mistake: Our social connections influence our happiness. While all three of those choices in the above pop quiz do affect how happy we are, the one we often overlook is the invisible ties we have to everyone in our social networks. This means that increasing your own happiness, and the happiness of your children, is a great way to contribute to the greater good.  And encouraging happiness habits among your friends has positive ripple effects throughout their social networks, your family included. I hope you will join our discussion about this!
"© 2011 Christine Carter, Ph.D  Greater Good the science of a meaningful life."