Growing up, my mother used to constantly remind me that birds of a feather flock together. Considering my group of friends, this was a good thing. I had (and still have) great friends in grade school, high school, college, and beyond people I was proud to be associated with.
As it turns out, there is something to this birds of a feather theory. A study published last week in the British Medical Journal found that the people you surround yourself with can have a direct and profound effect on your happiness. According to researchers James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, Peoples happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.
After mapping the social interactions of nearly 5,000 people aged 21 to 70, discovered that when someone expresses happiness, their friend experiences a 25 percent increased chance of catching the happiness bug. And that friends friend has a 9.8 percent chance of becoming happy. And even the friend of that second friend as a 5.6 percent chance of getting the happiness virus.
Pretty cool, right? But what, you may be asking, does this have to do with hormone health? I mean, how on earth can giggling help hot flashes or night sweats? The answer is that it actually can.
As Dr. Lark and I wrote in Hormone Revolution, there is a very large and very real connection between hormone health and positive emotions. Thousands of studies have shown that what you do with your mind and emotions has a powerful effect on your health. One study in particular has always resonated with me.
Researchers looked at the longevity of a group of Catholic nuns from Milwaukee. The sisters ate, lived, slept together for years. They had the same daily routine, taught in the same school, had the same financial situation, received the same medical care, etc. Given this unique set of circumstances, researchers decided to evaluate the connection between happiness and longevity.
They looked at writings the sisters did prior to taking their vows. They divided the writings and their respective authors into different classifications based on the levels of joy and satisfaction expressed in the letters. They found that 90 percent of those sisters whose writings fell into the most happy category were still alive at age 85 or older. Conversely, just 34 percent of those sisters who writings fell into the least happy category lived to be 85.
In the past, Dr. Lark has written about positive thinking and emotions helping women deal with menopause symptoms and ease the discomfort of many perimenopause symptoms, including fibroids and endometriosis. I can tell you firsthand that nothing eases cramps and PMS symptoms like my favorite comedy and a good laugh. And I have many, many friends that have brushed off concerns of early menopause with a self-deprecating joke or two. Come to think of it, there isnt much that good friends and a good laugh cant make better.
Clearly there is something to this happiness thing. Not only does happiness translate to a longer life span, but it seems to be viral, infecting those around you and those around them. Its like an emotional flu!
Now thats one virus Id be glad to catch and pass on.