In these uncertain economic times it is heartening to know that happiness spreads more robustly than unhappiness and seems to have a greater effect than money.

A recent study from James Fowler of University of California at San Diego and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School showed that having $5,000 extra increased a person’s chances of becoming happier by about two percent. But that same research also showed that “someone you don’t know and have never met—the friend of a friend of a friend—can have a greater influence than hundreds of bills in your pocket.”

Happiness is a fundamental object of human existence, so much so that the World Health Organization is increasingly emphasising happiness as a component of health.

The first step is to take greater responsibility for your own happiness.

This study looked at the happiness of nearly five thousand individuals over a period of twenty years and found that when an individual becomes happy, the network effect can be measured up to three degrees. One person’s happiness triggers a chain reaction that benefits not only their friends, but their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends, effectively creating a happiness virus.

When you become happy, a friend living within a mile experiences a twenty-five percent increased chance of becoming happy. A co-resident spouse experiences an eight percent increased chance, siblings living within one mile have a fourteen percent increased chance, and for next door neighbors, thirty-four percent.

Happiness is a choice and you can learn to develop your happiness skills and achieve a lasting inner joy that will reflect into your outer world.

The top eight skills for happiness are:

1. Take full ownership of your emotions
2. Listen to and question your thoughts
3. Learn to love without condition
4. Meditate / contemplate and be inspired
5. Look after your body and it’s health
6. Find meaning in your life
7. Contribute to something greater than yourself
8. Nurture your relationships

And if all that seems like hard work, take comfort from the research and find some happy friends.

• Every happy friend you have increases your own chance of being happy by nine percent.

• For every unhappy friend, the likelihood of happiness decreases by seven percent.

• You are fifteen percent more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person.

Happiness is ten percent more likely if it's the friend of a friend who is happy.

• Your chances of being happy are six percent if it's the friend of a friend of a friend.

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