First, being happy is not only important to your social life, but also to your health. People who consider themselves happy are also more inclined to live longer and are less susceptible to heart attacks. In his book “Authentic Happiness”, Martin Seligman3 describes a study made with some nuns and based on the autobiographical essays they wrote when they were accepted in the convent. After sixty years, it was noted that the biggest part of the most cheerful nuns were still alive, while the others might had already died ten years before. And what gives more authenticity to this research is that, since they were all living together under the same conditions, you can eliminate any external variable that could influence in the result.This fact might be explained by the higher levels of Immunoglobin A that happier people also present. This protein plays an important whole in our immune system.4
Also, there are many studies to prove that Happiness is directly related to Kindness. The psychologist Alice Isen, from Cornell University, once developed a study where she left some dimes in pay phones and after people hang up, another person would be passing by and dropped a stack of paper. Those people who used the phone with extra money were much more inclined in helping the others than those who didn’t have gained anything. She has also distributed candies and played with people always in order to raise positive emotions on them and the result was always the same: People who have been exposed to these positive feelings were much more helpful than the others.5
In a bigger scale, this relation is also true. A report leaded by Charities Aid Foundation found out that nations where people are more glad to be alive tend to contribute more to charity, independently of their national income. Australia and New Zealand, for example, are the most giving countries while their wellbeing score is more than 7.0 in a scale of 10.6
Finally, Happiness is contagious. According to Nicholas Christakis’ study, if you’re a happy person, you’re much more inclined to be surrounded by equally happy people, and the opposite is also true. The reason of that is because we tend to search for people with similar interests and behaviors, and we also tend to copy what is around us. For example, if my very close friend gains weight, my risk of getting fatter also increases.
Images by Max Wanger.