THE HAPPINESS EFFECT
‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence’ – Aristotle
Being Chief Happiness Officer, I inadvertently get involved in various philosophical discussions about what happiness is and is not. I’m often amused at how overly-analytical and even angry people can get, trying to convince others that their definition and approach to happiness is the “right” one. What’s the point of winning an argument on happiness when the very act of doing so makes you unhappy?
Someone asked me yesterday if I believed happiness is a habit or an emotion. I replied that to me, happiness is a state of being. Emotion is essentially “energy in motion”. When you habitually think, act, and are in that positive energetic state, you are, simply, happy.
HAPPINESS SPREADS LIKE A VIRUS
What is truly exciting is how happiness as a form of positive energy can spread and multiply.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, says Jim Rohn and various personal development experts. I would assert that this statement also applies to happiness. Think of the last time you were around people who were positive, full of laughter and totally enjoying themselves. Wasn’t it hard to resist that infectious and uplifting energy?
I’m particularly intrigued by the results of the 20-year-long Framingham Heart Study by Fowler and Christakis. After following nearly 5000 individuals for 20 years, they found that happiness (and unhappiness) tended to spread up to 3 degrees of separation. Which means, your happiness level may not just be a matter of your own thoughts and choices, but it is also an influence of those closest to you like friends, siblings, spouses, and next-door neighbours.
SMALL THINGS CAN CHANGE HISTORY
Combine this powerful concept with the Butterfly Effect. The term was coined by Lorenz in chaos theory, based on the suggestion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect the weather in Texas. Essentially, small changes to something seemingly unrelated can affect large, complex systems.
Here is a real-life story of the Butterfly Effect: In 1973, a 9-year old boy named Anthony Hollander found a fatally injured bird in his garden. He was deeply affected by the bird’s plight, and wrote to Blue Peter, a children’s programme on the BBC, with the idea that he could make people and animals alive, and even asked for a ‘model of a heart split in half’ and ‘tools for cutting people open’. The programme editor of Blue Peter took the trouble to reply to his letter, suggesting that he checked with his family doctor. Encouraged by the fact that he actually received a reply, especially one with no ‘hint of ridicule or disbelief’, Hollander went on to pursue his ideas. In 2008, the world saw a medical breakthrough when the world’s first artificially-grown organ was successfully transplanted in tuberculosis patient Claudia Castillo. Prof Hollander was the only stem cell scientist on that team. The simple reply to a young boy’s letter 40 years ago contributed to a medical breakthrough and lives being saved.
The truth is, we will never really know the true impact of each small thing that we say and do each day. A smile, a positive word of encouragement, a kind thought, all emit waves of energy and trigger events that we cannot fathom.
START THE HAPPINESS SPIRAL
What does the Happiness Effect mean to us? Fundamentally, everything that we do is for a more comfortable, happier and more fulfilled life. The next big promotion, striking lottery, spending time with the family… it all boils down to more happiness for ourselves and our loved ones.
The Happiness Effect is a powerful concept because it suggests that every bit of happiness that we focus on can multiple and spread through our network. And this happiness would eventually boomerang back to us manifold. All it takes is for us habitually and consciously invest pockets of time each day in positive thoughts and small actions that matter.
Start the Happiness Effect today!
To happy and fulfilling lives,
Chief Happiness Officer
Skool of Happiness