When you’re laughing, when you’re laughing, the sun comes shining through.
The cover of my Wired magazine this month has the words Cheer Up emblazoned on the top left, referencing a story by Jonah Lehrer on happiness. According to new research, which Lehrer shares in an article aptly titled The Buddy System, happiness is contagious.
Intuitively we have all known this, but it behooves science to not accept the obvious as true until it is demonstrated scientifically. As an example, picture a board room and everyone is serious. Then someone comes in smiling and the room lights up. It could be a scene in a bar, or any kind of setting, actually.
When I was a kid growing up in NJ my dad used to turn on the radio every morning at seven and listen to the news on WOR, followed by Rambling With Gambling. What I remember is that the show always began with or played upbeat music like Zippidee-Doo-Dah and When You’re Smiling.
Well, this new research attempts to specifically quantify the impact of happy people on others. In an L.A. Times piece last December titled Happiness is contagious, research finds based on the same research, “Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.”
In other words, if you’re feeling blue, you can actually increase your odds of getting a lift by choosing to surround yourself with happy people.
In the B.F.Skinner model of life we’re pretty much victims of our upbringing, conditioning, etc. Freudian psychology’s pop misapplications lead us to accept that we are victims of our subconscious drives. New genetic research shows how much of who we are is encrypted in our DNA. All this begs the question, Is happiness really a choice?
There is a sense in which this is what Plato’s metaphor of the man in the cave is about. If we move out of our dark, holed up existence underground and climb out into the light, the new circumstances will be enlightening. One way to do this might be to go share an evening with a cheerful friend.
And to some extent that's what the social networks are about... According to Lehrer, joy is indeed contagious, both off line and on the net. Let's crank up the volume: Oh Happy Day!