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Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Happiness is Contagious - Dec 11, 2008

Joy to the World! Happiness is Contagious

December 11, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With the economy struggling and layoffs continuing, millions of Americans are working hard to find their happiness during this holiday season. But new research from Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego reports that happiness is actually contagious. Here to tell us more is TXA 21 News Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: Is happiness actually contagious?

Dr. Sylvia: Think of happiness as a joy virus. This landmark study of almost 5000 people followed for twenty years (1983 to 2003) demonstrates that when one person becomes happier, that happiness ripples through the social network. We call this phenomenon "emotional contagion" which means that emotional states can be transferred directly from person to person. We "catch" emotional states and they can last for as long as a year. We like to think of ourselves as exclusively governing our own emotional state but this new research suggests otherwise. Simply put, no man or woman is an island.

Q: What does the study teach us about happiness?

Dr. Sylvia:

Proximity Counts: Live near your happy friends. A happy friend who lives within a half mile of you makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself. If that friend lives two miles away, the impact drops to 22%. Happy friends who are more distant have no effect.

Daily Doses of Good Will: Even superficial social pleasantries can bump your happiness ratio. For example, chatting with a happy next-door neighbor increases your happiness by 34%. Consider this to be a happiness "injection!"" However, neighbors who live on the same block down the street have no significant effect since you are less likely to see them routinely.

Frequency of Contact: This factor is more important than proximity and there is nothing that beats frequent face-to-face contact. The Internet, our cell phones, and our emails cannot replace the boost we get when we have "up close and personal" contact.

Happiness Spreads by Degree: Happiness spreads across groups by three degrees, to the friend of friends of friends. So people with whom you have no connection could be influencing your mood through the happiness factor.

Friend-to-Friend and Gender-to-Gender: Having a happy friend of the same gender, who lives nearby and who sees you a lot is the ideal combination.

Q: What about the people we are closest to such as spouses and siblings?

Dr. Sylvia: Surprisingly, spouses have little effect on each other's happiness. Spouses who become happier only bump each other up by 8% and siblings who live nearby only increase happiness by 14%. The most important variables in happiness contagion are physical proximity and frequency of contact. Make a friend and see them often!

Q: What about our coworkers?

Dr. Sylvia: This research suggests that the happiness of co-workers has no significant effect on your happiness. Therefore, contact with happy people in non-business social environments seems far more likely to improve your happiness than contact with happy people in a performance-centered work environment. It appears that the competitive, performance based workplace may mute our good spirits. I do believe though that highly optimistic, motivating leaders in the work setting can lift spirits enormously.

Q: Finally, who are the happiest people and what can we learn from them?

Dr. Sylvia:

Center of the Party: The happiest people are located in the center of their local social network. They are not necessarily the life of the party as much as they are socializing with lots of different people. Happiness is a social emotion and they create it in a thousand different ways--sharing, confiding, playing, gossiping, kidding around, etc. They may also generate more happiness by their generosity and deep interest in others. If you consider the three degrees of separation rule, these happy people may the be chief generators of much of our society's happiness.

Healing Power of Others: We are social beings and the healing power of social contact has never been more important than in this stormy economic times. This data demonstrates you're your social network now counts more than money. Make a friend and see them often!