Few would dispute that one person in a foul mood can spoil an entire party. What might be harder to believe is that happiness can be contagious, too.
Nonethe-less, researchers claim that is the case -- and they have a study to prove it. The study's primary purpose was to track the health of more than 4,700 people as part of a 20-year heart study. But an added benefit was a finding that happy people can influence others to be happy.
"Happiness is like a stampede," said Nicholas Christakis, a professor in Harvard University's sociology department and co-author of the study. He noted that happiness does not derive solely from our own actions, behaviors and thoughts, but also, to a great extent, from the happiness of those around us.
Researchers found, predictably, that happy people tended to be at the center of social networks and had many friends who also were happy. Having friends or siblings nearby increased a person's chances of being upbeat.
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It seems that a logical prescription for happiness would be to surround yourself with happy people and avoid unhappy people whenever possible.
During the holidays, however, some happy folks might seem more charitably inclined.
They might consider buffing up their happy attitude as much as possible, then hanging out with various scrooges, grinches and grumps in hopes that the happiness will rub off.
Some cantankerous grouches are determined to be miserable no matter what, but it might be worth a try to cheer them up.
You can always return to the happy crowd to get recharged.