December 4, 2008

Happiness.

Contagious.

62 comments:

blake said...

"You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience," said Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University who helped conduct the study published online today by BMJ, a British medical journal. "But it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious."

Ace had a study up today showing that middle aged men preferred younger women (and vice-versa). Apparently men are attracted to youth and looks while women are attracted to money and stability.

Another item in the "scientific shockah" Hall of Fame.

Catharine said...

Because people tended to get happier if someone they knew became happy, the researchers could rule out the alternative explanation that happy people tend to be drawn to each other.

Another tidbit from the article, for non-linkfollowers: While obesity appeared to spread even among people who lived far apart, happiness appears to be transmitted only among people who live within a mile of one another.

Bummer, Batman.

Stephanie said...

Some other points of view:

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/labnotes/archive/2008/12/04/happiness-is-contagious.aspx

and

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/27/DD9VVQAVO.DTL&hw=happiness+Jon+Carroll&sn=034&sc=1000

Catharine said...

"Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally," Seligman said. "They get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group."

Fabulous, this statement is, particularly in its universality: Believers (of whatever religious type), atheists, musicians, artists, (x)education-grindists, politico-partisans, philosophers, whatever, etc. etc. etc. and so on, whatever, ad nauseam, are united, to their eternal distress. For and despite all of that, unity is not required.

Whew! (Fortunately!)

WHEW!

AlphaLiberal said...

I'm feeling it. Hoo boy.

Catharine said...

And you would, Alpha Liberal, embodying as you do the same "Howdy Doody" attitude as others, despite the different origins. I find that charming in its particular way, myself. However, the piquant part is how you don't and won't allow within yourself for the similarly benign view of others, and that you are always available to attack with willfully blind discrimination those who don't strictly line up to your particular marking up of the yardstick.

Catharine said...

Meanwhile: CNN, the Cable News Network, announced yesterday that it will cut its entire science, technology, and environment news staff.

Even in just the "breaking! announcing! mode, it's an interesting thing to ponder.

Catharine said...

Still, thank God for Ren and Stimpy: ...

...

Dennis said...

I have a roommate who never stops trying to sing like R. Kelly (or any number of warbling "soulful" sounding singers), and it generally makes me want to bash his head in with a garbage can lid.

I must be immune.

Michael_H said...

Happiness is contagious, spreading among friends, neighbors, siblings and spouses...

Happiness.....it's the new head lice.

Palladian said...

So is there a vaccine to help us avoid infection by this terrible scourge? What is the CDC doing to halt transmission of this virulent contagion?

Note: If anyone approaches you and seems inordinately happy, cover your nose and mouth and back away.

Catharine said...
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Catharine said...

C'est parfait, Palladian, on the one hand; on the other, it can be scary, I'm given to understand.

Mortimer Brezny said...

What I would like to know is who the happiest people are by region, profession, and age, so I know where to visit and whom to strike up a conversation with.

jdeeripper said...

Mortimer Brezny said...What I would like to know is who the happiest people are by region, profession, and age..

Colored folks down South. The older ones who go to church three times a week.

Eric said...

So is there a vaccine to help us avoid infection by this terrible scourge? What is the CDC doing to halt transmission of this virulent contagion?

Heh. Those of us with German blood are immune.

rhhardin said...

I manage to be happy without spreading any of it.

rhhardin said...

There's the slogan of the (old) Imus in the Morning program : ``We're not happy unless you're not happy.''

Bissage said...

This appears to be a well-designed study. Still, it is nearly impossible to factor out all the variables. Drawing from my own personal experience, the most telling variable is sunshine. This is because sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy while sunshine in my eyes can make me cry. While it is true that sunshine on the water looks so lovely, it is similarly true that sunshine almost always makes me high.

Michael_H said...

Bissage - I wonder if the design of the study included walking on sunshine?

Darcy said...

middle aged men preferred younger women

Their wives prefer money and stability, too. There's the rub.

Pogo said...

Happiness is contagious?

Damnit. So where can I dump all these warm puppies?

TMink said...

"You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience,"

Wow, a medical sociologist who is confused that other people are a crucial aspect of our experience!!! Normal, developmentally complete human beings are hardwired for social interactions and empathy. We know this from brain research.

I think those guys need to read outside their little field more often.

Trey

Original George said...

Scientific studies have proven that it will add about three years to your life, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your immune systems.

And it will probably make you happier, even if you are caked with black make-up.

AllenS said...

Happiness Is a Warm Gun

A song by The Beatles.

Pogo said...

"it will add about three years to your life,"

Crikey! Thanks for the warning.

Grumpiness, several cigars, and a hot toddy for me, then, to let loose this mortal coil post-haste.

ricpic said...

A moment of true happiness is rare, in my experience, and cannot be manufactured. I had such a moment this morning. Completely unexpected. It happened because of a break in my normal morning routine. The route that I normally drive, which has train crossings, was stopped to allow a train to cross, a rarity. Anyhow, just the fact of being stopped made me notice: winter light; brown/green tree branches against pink sky; the pleasant warmth in the car. And then the John Williams music to Superman came on the radio and it welled up in me: it's good to be alive. Then the train past and we were all on our way again: back in blahsville.

rhhardin said...

New York Times news alert:

The unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a point to 6.7 percent in November; it would have been even higher if large numbers of discouraged workers had not given up looking for work.

There's no advertising reader eyeballs in happiness.

The ``discouraged workers'' is to narrate to women.

rhhardin said...

Ohio train happiness.

Original George said...

rhhardin--

Absolutely. That's not the real unemployment number.

The real number is closer to 12 percent.

The media typically report the number known as U-3 instead of the higher U-6 number which includes unemployed seasonal workers, unemployed part-timers, and people who've stopped looking.

Here is the latest BLS chart that shows U3 and U6. Let your eyes go from left to right, and you can trace how unemployment has risen.

The feds changed the official unemployment reporting system during the 1990 recession to underreport what was going on.

Why do financial media ignore U6? Maybe it's a herd mechanism. If subconsciously reporters know that if they tell people (i.e. their advertisers) that things are worse than they say they are, it will make it more likely that they themselves will lose their jobs. Who knows?

So, if unemployment is closer to 12 percent today, where will it be in spring 2009....15% ....What will it be in China?

Henry said...
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Henry said...

I once lived in a community that had natural lithium in the well water. Very happy place.

Similarly, as one of the few McCain voters in my circle (and state), I was happy when Obama was elected because everyone else was happy.

But, like Ricpic, most of my happiest moments are unplanned and detached from big issues. Often, my kids make me happiest, except when they make me insane.

MadisonMan said...

You know what I thought of as I heard about this study? Facebook. I wonder if happy people on facebook spread their happiness. Or do you need the in-person interaction?

Darcy said...

So, if unemployment is closer to 12 percent today, where will it be in spring 2009....15% ....What will it be in China?

Tut, tut!! Happy, happy...say it with me. It's contagious.

Darcy said...

Often, my kids make me happiest

Aww. Mine, too.

I read somewhere...gosh, I wish I could remember who wrote or said this...that to have a child is like having your heart walk around outside of your body for the rest of your life. So true.

laura said...

Thanks, ricpic. A little attitude of gratitude helps lighten the load.

My husband and I, as we drove into work, this morning were discussing the news of WI state government budget cuts. Both being UW employees, our incomes are obviously tied to the budget process. Who knows what will come of negotiated contract agreements. A lot of things will happen that we have not control of. Today, I don't toward that 2% or whatever raise I supposed to get next summer. Today, I'm glad I have a job.

But really, most of the things in my life that I'm grateful for, the truly important things, have nothing to do with the economy. When I can remember that, I am happy.

MadisonMan said...

Laura, as part of a two-spouses-working-at-the-UW family, I agree completely. I work with so many people who bitch about the low pay raises. I just keep my mouth shut and yell at them that they're lucky to be working.

If you don't like low pay, don't work for the state. If you don't like your commute in from Cross Plains on Hwy 14, then move. Stop complaining! I'm trying to be happy, damn it!

MadisonMan said...

That is to say, I *don't* yell at them. I haven't yet mastered the ability to yell with my mouth shut :)

MadisonMan said...

..which brings up the thought: I know people (like my brother) who appear to be happiest when they're complaining about something. So bizarrely, they're happiest when they're unhappy.

Which of the emotional states would spread like a contagion in that case -- the happiness, or the root cause of the happiness, unhappiness?

Sofa King said...

A moment of true happiness is rare, in my experience, and cannot be manufactured.

Not manufactured maybe, but a couple of cocktails can make it a lot easier to trip over.

rhhardin said...

You can be an unemployed anything you want, is the upside. Be an unemployed brain surgeon.

Henry said...

Which of the emotional states would spread like a contagion in that case -- the happiness, or the root cause of the happiness, unhappiness?

Or avoidance.

Joan said...

I read somewhere...gosh, I wish I could remember who wrote or said this...that to have a child is like having your heart walk around outside of your body for the rest of your life. So true.

Darcy, I've quoted it here a couple of times, but I can't find the source of the original quote. Please let me know if you find out!

A song by the Beatles.
You realize the Beatles were speaking metaphorically? The imagery is unmistakeably sexual. I can't argue with either the literal or implied statement, though.

I know people (like my brother) who appear to be happiest when they're complaining about something.
I try to minimize my time around such people. They're like contentment vampires, sucking the enjoyment out of the atmosphere for everyone else. It helps a lot to realize it's just how they are, so you can steel yourself against the onslaught of negativity. The ones I've known get angry if you laugh off their complaints or offended if you ask them why they have to be such downers. Some people just like to be spoilers, having found no other power they can wield to gain a sense of accomplishment.

Pogo said...

Happy women are a gift from God; the most beautiful creatures on the planet. They're social magic, able to turn the most meager meal or paltry doings into sheer joy. Life itself, like giving birth.

Happy men are less so to me; too much of the smiling fox or crocodile; the threat beneath the veneer of joviality.

Darcy said...

Well, the grumpiness didn't last long, Pogo! Ha!

AllenS said...

Happiness is a warm gun. Just ask Plaxico Burress. Unhappiness is when it goes off in your pants.

Darcy said...

Speaking of The Beatles...happiness is "Something" - one of the most romantic songs ever.

Bissage said...

The imagery is unmistakably sexual.

Maybe yes. Maybe no.

The “warm gun” is a syringe that contains a mixture of cooked heroin and blood at body temperature.

I’d bet money on it.

Well, I’d bet money that I don’t intend to spend on heroin.

Which is pretty much all my money.

So . . . no, I wouldn’t bet money on it.

MadisonMan said...

Things that make me happy:

Walking in the rain (while wearing good raingear).

Watching snow fall on a crisp December day.

My kids.

Helping other people solve a problem.

Working in the garden (unless it's weeding).

Raspberries.

Catharine said...

The quote about children and hearts:

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
--Elizabeth Stone

laura said...

MM - I would answer that your brother actually isn't that happy. Some people get high on the drama of complaining. All which remind me, isn't there a Sheryl Crowe song along those lines?

Bissage said...

A simpler explanation is that people who complain all the time are unhappy and controlled by their rescue fantasies.

Joan said...

Bissage, you are right that the Beatles were singing about drugs and not sex, but, Salma Hayek and Across the Universe notwithstanding, the warbling refrain of "bang, bang, shoot, shoot" always sounds more like sex than shooting up to me. When I first heard this song, I had no idea that anything like heroin existed. I had a very sheltered youth.

Pogo said...

The only heroin I knew about in my childhood was Wonder Woman.

Meade said...

MadisonMan said...
Things that make me happy:

Walking in the rain (while wearing good raingear).

Watching snow fall on a crisp December day.

My kids.

Helping other people solve a problem.

Working in the garden (unless it's weeding).

Raspberries.


Dang. If only MadisonMan were a young available female -- with all my money and stability, I'd ask him (her) for a date.

But seriously, it is your gratitude for each thing that makes you happy, not the thing in and of itself.

And gratitude can be willed, nourished and cultivated. One can even choose to be grateful for grumpy, whiney, complainers - living reminders of the alternative to counting one's blessings.

TMink said...

John said that he wrote Happiness is a Warm Gun in response to an NRA ad that had that as the title. He composed "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" in the same way as the words were almost verbatim lifted from a circus advert. He denied the drug or sex metaphor, of course they could have been unconscious.

Trey

AllenS said...

If you're going to put a gun in your pants, make sure that it's at least room temperature.

Christopher said...

"Glad To Be Unhappy," Rodgers and Hart:

Fools rush in, so here I am
Very glad to be unhappy;
I can't win, but here I am -
More than glad to be unhappy.

Unrequited love's a bore,
And I've got it pretty bad;
But for someone you adore
It's a pleasure to be sad.

Like a straying baby lamb
With no mammy and no pappy,
I'm so unhappy
But oh, so glad.

And speaking as a chronically unhappy person, Joan, I can assure you I don't "just like to be a spoiler." Real deep depression is something I wouldn't wish on anyone, but the facile dismissals of it - or the flip suggestions to "snap out of it" or "get a pill" - hurt even more. YMMV, though.

Darcy said...

Christopher, that was touching as well as sobering. (And I don't know her, but I'm sure Joan didn't mean to hurt!)

I also know virtual hugs don't help either, but consider one sent anyway.

blake said...

TMink's understanding matches my own.
HiaWG is a poke at the NRA.

Anyone else have a visceral "I hate that movie" reaction to Across the Universe?

Henry said, Often, my kids make me happiest, except when they make me insane.

Ah, but are you sure that the only difference between one occasion and the other isn't that you're just aware you're insane?

Joan said...

Christopher said: And speaking as a chronically unhappy person, Joan, I can assure you I don't "just like to be a spoiler." Real deep depression is something I wouldn't wish on anyone, but the facile dismissals of it - or the flip suggestions to "snap out of it" or "get a pill" - hurt even more. YMMV, though.

Yes, MMV.

My youngest child is nearing 8 years old. I finally recovered from the depression that set in when I was five months pregnant with him (and went into preterm labor) about 3 years ago. I have written about my experiences from time to time. By this point I can recognize symptoms and get my medication tweaked before it gets too bad, but it is very disturbing to slide back into that black pit. The number of times I've thought -- not quite Lori Drew's words, but close enough -- it would be so much easier to be dead is more than I could count or care to admit.

I was not talking about people suffering from depression. Maybe some depressives are spoilers, but all the spoilers I know do not exhibit any of the other signs of depression that are so familiar to me. Maybe they're just better at hiding it than I ever was, but when I was depressed, I didn't have the energy to tear down anyone else. I didn't have the wit to try and ruin anyone else's fun, and I didn't have the desire to manipulate and control that such people display. When I was depressed, I could still smile to see my children happy, even if I never felt happy myself.

I have never, would never tell anyone who is depressed to "just get over it." In fact, I counsel cancer patients on dealing with the depression that can accompany their diagnosis. It is as real as the cancer and needs treatment, too.

I have no idea how you extrapolated my statements about spoilers and emotional vampires to apply to people suffering from depression. Perhaps you're lucky never to have run across one of these stealthily malicious types. It's very easy to make the distinction, and it disturbs me that you have impugned me the way you did.

Blake: Sorry I brought Across the Universe into this -- I only recently watched it, and it's just wretched, but I couldn't tear myself away. It was like watching a train wreck. Its sole redeeming quality is its infinite number of mockable moments. I think my favorite is the grunts carrying the Statue of Liberty while singing "She's So Heavy." (If that song is not about sex, please don't tell me.)

Christopher said...

Joan -

This thread's probably long dead, but I pull out of the web on the weekends to preserve a little sanity.

Apologies for taking your comment the wrong way, and my deepest sympathies for your own situation. It isn't a very nice place to be, is it? The times when you wish to just go to sleep and never wake up again. . .well, there it is. My sincerest apologies.

Darcy - thanks for the hug. And as far as "Glad To Be Unhappy" goes, someone once asked Lorenz Hart if he was glad to be unhappy - his answer was a decided "no!" He was a desperately unhappy man who wanted more than anything for a woman to love him, but being built like Danny DeVito, such love was denied him.