Ask Dr. Joy Miller: Is happiness contagious?

By WEEK Producer

June 13, 2012 Updated Jun 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Is Happiness Contagious? That is the topic of tonight's Dr. Joy.

There's a growing evidence that if you are happy, those around might find themselves happier as well. Tonight, we will look at some of the current research related to the chain reaction effects of happiness.

Many people know that if all of your friends are depressed, there is a high likelihood that you will feel down and blue. A Harvard Medical School study indicated that sadness spreads in social networks, but not as quickly as happiness.

Add a happy friend to your life and it enhances your chance of being happy by 9 percent. Socialize with an unhappy friend and your happiness level goes down by 7 percent.

You can control your happiness quotient by bringing happy people into your life and controlling the number of sad people that surround you.

There is a chain reaction that increases happiness, and our mood can have a dramatic positive effect on those we know and love.

We now know that our social contacts effect more than we may have once believed in a wide variety of factors

Statistics indicate that if our partner, friends, or our spouse is overweight, we tend to increase our weight to match theirs. In fact, we have a 57 percent higher chance of being obese if our significant other is obese.

If someone you love quits smoking, studies prove that you might have a 37 percent higher chance of "quitting the habit" as well.

Multiple studies indicate that the quality and quantity of our friendships and relationships effect our health and our ability to fight disease, and even survive cancer

What can we do to enhance our happiness ratio? Studies show you are 15 percent happier if your significant other or best friend is happy, so that means it's important to surround yourself with happy people.

* Look for things around you that make you happy. If you can see things that make you happy, or reasons to be grateful, you will be less likely to dwell on unhappiness or negativism

* Create a "pact" with your friends and family to focus on positives versus negatives, and make time to share your positives with each other on a daily basis.

* Be an "upper at work." Research shows that a joyful coworker lifts the spirits of all the friends they have in the workplace. If you are happy, then others will be as well, and that will come back to you when you are having a difficult day. It's the pay-it-forward concept in action.

Remember that happiness is contagious so go out and spread the JOY!

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