Many of us are anxious and under stress, as we try to figure out what the world entails for our friends, families, and communities. Most likely, the pursuit of pleasure is the last thing in people’s thoughts. Cultivating a joyous spirit may truly benefit not only us but also those around us—especially when times are difficult. As much as it comes from the specifics of what we do, our gift to the world comes from our being and presence, our smile and touch, our feeling of possibilities, and the wonder of human existence.
It’s a sweet sentiment, and research would appear to back it up. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of well-being on members of our social networks, including our families, coworkers, students, and the general public. This is true whether we are discussing our families, companies, schools, or society at large. When we are joyful, we make better romantic partners, are more charitable and helpful in our communities, and are more productive at work—all of which may be beneficial in times of crisis. According to James Fowler’s research, pleasure in social networks can spread up to three degrees away from its original source (you!).
This means that when you are happy, the people you are related to are also more likely to be happy, as well as their friends and the friends of their friends—for instance, the running partner of your sister’s employer. In schools, happiness contagion can also occur. According to one study, a student’s personal well-being and happiness at the conclusion of the academic year depended in part on how content and happy their peers were with their lives earlier in the year. Additionally, it may occur in both the job and at home in families.