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Can Sharing a Smile Be the Secret to Happiness?

Every mom (and Dad!) remembers the head to toe feeling of utter joy when we see our baby’s first smile. Smiles make us laugh and smiles make us feel connected to one another – and smiles are infectious!

We all know how easy it is to catch a cold. One sneeze in the right – place “Ah-choo” and you’re next. But did you know that smiles – indeed happiness – could be just as infectious? And with all the gloom and doom in the headlines these days, wouldn’t you rather know, especially on days when you’re angry, frustrated, or just down in the dumps, how easy it is to catch, and spread a case of smiles?

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Spreading smiles is easy, and I am not just talking about adding smileys to texts and emails 😉

What about that old childhood game of dare you to make me smile –and no matter how hard you tried…that grin across the table from you just seemed to transmit itself to tickle your funny bone and made you smile.

How many are old enough to remember “Smile You’re on Candid Camera?” Whether watching the end resulting smiles of the unsuspecting people or just Allen Funt’s Cheshire cat grin…you couldn’t help but feel like smiling yourself.

All kinds of smiles are communicable–a smiling child with dripping ice cream cone, a decked out clown with the lipstick smile that stretches across from ear to ear. A smile, whenever or wherever it happens represents one simple universal emotion – happiness.

Smiles Spread As Easy As Colds or Flu

Researches have some surprising and amazing evidence that the smiles and happiness from not only kids and clowns but others around you have just as much of a chance of infecting you with smiles and happiness as those nasty germs have with a cold or flu!  A group of Harvard researchers, whose work has appeared in scientific Journals and Time Magazine, have found proof of the ability for humans to spread happiness – as easily as viruses. But unlike viruses, an infectious smile can heal and improve your health!

It has long been known that positive thinking can improve an individual’s health and outlook on life. That fact serves the basis for the healing effect of everything from Mind Body Medicine, to Biofeedback and Tai Chi. But Nicholas Christakis, and colleague James Fowler set out to see if the positive effects could be contagious and how far reaching could they be?

Could one person actually spread positive feelings on to the next person and in the domino effect—to multitudes? Christakis and Fowler’s research showed that emotions could pass among a network of people up to 3 degrees of separation away.

Christakis and Fowler’s research has indicated that your wellbeing and happiness are not just influenced by environment, but in fact, how you feed into the larger social network. Said Christakis; “This super organism has an anatomy, physiology, structure and function that we are trying to understand.” In their paper published in the British Medical Journal, Christakis and Fowler explored the emotional state of about 5,000 people, and their approximately 50,000 social ties.

From their research tracking happiness levels, if a subject’s friend was happy, that subject was 15% more likely to be happy too, and if that friend’s friend was happy, the original subject was 10% more likely to be so. But even if the friend’s, friend, friend who was a stranger – was happy – the original subject was still almost 6% more likely to be happy too!

The researchers noted that this explains why smiling people tended to cluster together on social networking sites like Facebook

So scientific research and modern social phenomena seem to bring out what Louis Armstrong knew more than half a century ago when he crooned:

When you’re smilin’….keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you
And when you’re laughin’….keep on laughin’
The sun comes shinin’ through
But when you’re cryin’…. you bring on the rain
So stop your frownin’….be happy again
Cause when you’re smilin’….keep on smilin’
The whole world smiles with you!

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About Cynthia Lechan-Goodman

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