The Happiness Pandemic

laughter

“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?”  Dennis and Wendy Mannering

My much older brother (we’ll call him Clooney) owns a cabin in Montana on Duck Lake where we all just spent the weekend.  The quarters are large enough to comfortably hold the 8 family members and friends that had gathered, but small enough that there is little or no room for finding much alone time.    Clooney, being the intelligent guy that he is, has devised a method to give fair warning to the unsuspecting that a storm may be brewing.

If a person wakes up in the morning feeling less than sociable and maybe just a little bit grumpy, there is a specially designated signal to warn others.  It is a bright red coffee mug that can be seen from great distances and is meant to warn off unsuspecting cabin mates of a percolating foul mood.  If somebody is sipping from the mug, it is advisable to give them a wide berth until they find their happy place.

Brilliant use of form and function, Clooney.  Bravo.

Funny thing though, a person’s bad mood typically doesn’t need a red mug warning attached for others to recognize it.   Have you ever noticed that one person in a bad mood can join an otherwise pleasant group and pretty soon almost everybody is feeling owly and cross?  Maybe there is that one guy in the office who always has something to complain about.  Or that friend who shows up at a party and pretty soon everyone has found a reason to make an early exit.  You know who I am talking about… that Debbie Downer whose foul moods act as the anchor that pulls everyone under.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we all know that person whose presence will almost always raise the moods and attitudes in whatever group they join.  Could be a boring day at the office where everyone feels blah, then Susie Sunshine shows up and pretty soon everyone is energized, laughing, have a great time and wondering why they felt so down earlier.  Wherever she goes, her happiness radiates and warms up whatever space she is in.  We all love Susie and want her at every party we throw, because we know she will just make it better.

This phenomena has actually been put to scientific research and the findings are quite fascinating.  In a study back in 2010 at Harvard University, Alison Hill and her team of researchers concluded that happiness and sadness are indeed contagious and tend to spread in a model very similar to that of infectious diseases.  And it is much easier to spread the Sad germs than it is the Happy ones.  In their study Hill and her team found that groups subjected to sadness were infected about 50% of the time, but those subjected to happiness were only infected 11% of the time.  So in the grand scheme of things, Debbie Downer can take down Susie Sunshine almost any day of the week.

Somebody give Debbie the red mug.  This chick needs a warning label.

Armed with this information I intend to make a concerted effort to spread sunshine wherever I go.  Even on the days I would rather drink from the red mug, I will suck it up and produce a smile, a cheerful hello and keep my bad mood to myself.  And by faking it until I make it, maybe I will infect myself with those jumpy little happy germs along the way.

As the Buddha said, “Happiness never decreases by being shared”.   I say spread that shit around.  Maybe we can start a whole Happiness Pandemic.

 

 

 

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