Not only swine flu, but research shows happiness is also contagious!

Not only swine flu, but research shows happiness is also contagious! Given all the bad news of late, this report from the British Medical Journal seems timely. “A 20-year study found that happy people increase the happiness of those around them—including a spouse, a friend, or even a next-door neighbor.” According to the report I read, “Happiness, it appears, spreads through social networks like an emotional infection.” No kidding! Researchers say that having a happy neighbor (wouldn’t this be true in a dormitory, too?) increases your chances of being happy yourself by 34%. A happy friend who lives within a mile from you ups the likelihood that you’ll be happy by 25%. In fact they concluded that you are 99% more likely to be happy when you have at least one friend who’s happy. What’s not to like about that! How did the researchers define happiness? Agreeing with these statements: “I felt hopeful about the future,” “I was happy,” I enjoyed life,” and “I felt that I was just as good as other people.” And what’s the secret to boosting your happiness. Here are their seven suggestions: “Surround yourself with people you love; spend time doing things you enjoy; pursue personal growth opportunities; don’t compare yourself to others; focus on the positive; be grateful for what you have; forgive.” (WellNotes March 2009) Did you catch #7? “Forgive.” Surprised? Why if #7 is true, then God has to be the happiest Being in the universe, wouldn’t you say? After all, think of the astronomical debts he has forgiven you and me. And given all that forgiveness that we’ve freely received from him, don’t you suppose we have very good reason to be contagiously joyful ourselves? Which means we can compound his gift of happiness by turning around and practicing #7 with those who owe us big time, who by word or action have wounded us painfully. It’s the Calvary way to abiding joy, isn’t it? “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). But new research suggests we can know what we’re doing when we choose to forgive our debtors as God has forgiven us. Forgive and be happy. What’s not to like about that?