Apparently, a good mood is contagious: the New York Timesreported yesterday that a long-term study has found that having a friend, neighbor, or even a distant acquaintance who’s happy can make you happier. The authors believe the contagious effect of happiness can be both powerful and far-reaching:
“if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”
Wow: five thousand bucks for happiness at three degrees of separation. That may seem pretty unlikely—until you remember that money doesn’t actually do very much to make you happy. Sure, most people get a momentary jolt of pleasure form an extra 5 grand. But research has shown that the joy we get from money is pretty thin stuff, and it fades fast. And that makes it at least somewhat plausible that the ripple effects of bliss, even three times removed, could be worth a lot of cash; sharing a smile is like spreading the wealth.
Of course, I think there’s good reason to be skeptical about the results. No other research has confirmed the effect of happiness three times removed. But in the meantime, if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! Hopefully, someone will hear you.
Hat tip to Jessica Branom-Zwick.