Saturday, December 06, 2008

A small thing you can do 

I had written a sharp-witted post on Barack Obama's proposal for a massive program to build infrastructure, but I fat-fingered my keyboard and deleted more than an hour's work.

So, instead, you get this:

How happy you are may depend on how happy your friends' friends' friends are, even if you don't know them at all.

And a cheery next-door neighbor has more effect on your happiness than your spouse's mood.

So says a new study that followed a large group of people for 20 years — happiness is more contagious than previously thought.

"Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don't even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you," said Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, to be published Friday in BMJ, a British journal. "There's kind of an emotional quiet riot that occurs and takes on a life of its own, that people themselves may be unaware of. Emotions have a collective existence — they are not just an individual phenomenon."

Generally, it makes sense. Specifically, I agree with this naysayer:
Kahneman said unless the findings were replicated, he could not accept that a spouse's happiness had less impact than a next-door neighbor. Christakis believes that indicates that people take emotional cues from their own gender.

I might buy that the happiness of one's co-workers had a greater impact than one's spouse, but not a neighbor. It has been ages since I had a clue in the world whether my neighbors were cheerful or barely cling to sanity. The broader point, though, makes tremendous sense. Smiles and laughter make all the difference in the world, especially when times are tough. I do my bit, but I know from personal experience that a great many of you are dour, gloomy, loads. Cheer the frack up!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Dec 07, 09:39:00 AM:

Some feeble minded random thoughts. I concur TH. Someone once told me that even after a person in a bad left the room, that bad mood hung in the air like a bad odor, so it stands to reason that a happy person could have the opposite effect. I remember watching a show on Andrew Carnegie which said he was hired for his first good job in part because of his optimistic and cheerful demeanor. As for your readers being cheerless, I would suggest they are happier than they appear. The dour attitude is probably a reaction to specific posts. It is indeed hard to be optimistic and upbeat when Obama has your business squarely in his crosshairs. In my case, I see that his EPA is proposing greenhouse fees on cattle that far exceed my profits. Hard to be cheerful about that.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Dec 07, 11:29:00 AM:

Sorry to hear about the tax on cattle farts -- that's gotta hurt. I'll try to eat more beef, if that would help. Or be possible.

Actually, my comments were not aimed at "my readers" per se, so much as the general mood of Americans at the moment. My readers are, by their nature, an optimistic crew.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 08, 12:26:00 PM:

When in doubt, trust Danny Kahneman. A smart man, he is -- and seemingly rather cheerful.

-Scurvy Oaks  

By Blogger George, at Tue Dec 09, 06:44:00 PM:

Next time, try CTRL-Z on the keyboard. It MIGHT have saved you.  

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