It’s all over the news…laugh and the world laughs with you. (that’s definitely better than the world laughing at you) The study conducted by researchers at Harvard and University of California San Diego found that happiness is contagious. I know what you’re thinking, how can you be happy when you’re caring for someone who is ill. I’m not saying you have to be jubilant or throw a ticker tape parade, but a bit of happiness like a pinch of salt in cooking may be good for you on multiple levels. As it seems to show, it can also be good for your neighbors and community.
What we’re really looking at is the power of social networks. Technology has certainly changed many of our definitions of community, but let’s look at it from multiple levels. On the more personal level, when your neighbors see you as you pick up the morning paper from the driveway, smile and say good morning and ask about you don’t you feel happy? If you do that for someone else and they snub you don’t you make a comment about the sourpuss who lives in the neighborhood. I know it sounds a lot like forecasting the weather, but in some ways it does seem to travel like the wind.
On the technology side, with networks such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs galore, can’t you hook in to someone else’s happiness? Don’t you feel uplifted when somene wants to be your “friend” and then starts a dialogue. I just found a friend of mine from high school (I grew up in NJ) and she’s living in CA. The interesting thing is she moved 30 minutes from where I lived in CA and she moved there the year after I moved there. The world is much smaller than you might think.
“Being happy also brings other benefits, including a protective effect on your immune system so you produce fewer stress hormones, said Andrew Steptoe, a psychology professor at University College London”. Caregiving is stressful so anything you can do to lower the stress hormones protects you, the caregiver, from developing your own health complications. Just because you’re caring for someone who is ill doesn’t mean you have to be serious all the time. Yes, certainly be serious about helping the person who is ill, but don’t deny who you are as a social being. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to interact with the outside world.
Why do you think that support groups have been so successful? It’s because you find others in the same situation, who understand you, and even make off colored jokes and remarks that only someone in your situation would or could find funny. (those on the outside may consider it bad taste, but it’s life saving)
We need to connect because we’re social creatures. So you have a choice, network with happy people and reap the rewards of happiness or network with curmudgeons and keep that narrow, fatalistic approach to life…the choice is yours.