You really can spread a little happiness
Up until now, the notion of ‘spreading a little happiness’ as we go through our day might have seemed like just a nice idea, but research has shown an astonishing degree to which our positive moods really do spread to others.
A Harvard study published in late 2010 followed 5,0000 people over 20 years and found that when one person’s happiness increases, it ripples out through their friends who pass it on in turn to their friends and so on, giving an all round mood boost that they suggest can last up to one year.
Scientists have tracked and talked about this in terms of actual social networks – the way that we are all literally connected through our relationships.
I believe that there is another way of explaining this. For me, it is further evidence of the degree to which we are connected and how our moods, energy and even experience at the level of the individual feeds back into that whole and circles down into every other individual connected to it. Within Buddhism and Sufism and many other religions, there is the notion that as one person becomes enlightened, it raises the consciousness of everyone and I have often said that our real purpose here is to evolve the whole.
It’s also a reminder of our individual power in our ability to make a huge difference to many others by doing what we can to boost the mood of any one person and puts a huge spiritual stamp of approval on efforts like the Random Acts of Kindness movement. This began in the 1980s and has since spread across the world where the only aim is to do something nice for no reason for people you don’t necessarily know.
I also think it’s worth noting that the paper that sparked this article marks a kind of overall shift in psychological studies. Up until shockingly recently, most psychological investigations focused on our shadow side and many of the famous studies taught revealed how nasty, cruel and self-serving we could be. What you find through the process of research is all about what you go looking for, and just a few years ago psychologists such as Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi began what is called the Positive Psychology movement. In a joint paper, these two set out the areas this new field would explore that had been generally overlooked in other studies– hope, wisdom, creativity, courage, spirituality, and responsibility. In other words, all the good stuff about us.
That’s why more papers like this one from Harvard are beginning to paint a very different picture of who we are and who we can be. Psychology is quite a young science. Perhaps as we go along and more studies are revealed, we will soon have a different kind of persuasive evidence of what the ancient mystics told us all along – that within us all lies elements of the divine and an amazing potential to transform ourselves and others.
Loads of love,
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