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Why Happiness Matters

Think how wonderful the world would be if we all did what made us happy. Wouldn't it be amazing to live in a world where we let go of the "shoulds" and followed our hearts to what was truly important to us?
02/01/2016 04:47pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." -- Aristotle

Happiness matters, more than you might realize. It's important to your physical and mental health, your resiliency in the face of obstacles and crises, and believe it or not, your happiness is important to the happiness of the world at large.

Your Happiness Matters to the Whole World

Yes, you heard me -- your personal happiness is important to the happy quotient of the entire world. But somewhere along the way, we've picked up this horribly damaging belief that wanting to be happy is selfish and arrogant. We've made ourselves believe that what we want most in life is not important, and that we don't deserve it.

We've somehow managed to twist ourselves so out of alignment with Who We Really Are that we've come to believe that suffering is expected, and even virtuous! We've come to believe that in pursuing our own happiness, we will somehow destroy or negate the happiness of others. And so we give up on believing that our own happiness matters and we resign ourselves to a lifetime of misery because we don't want to hurt anyone and we don't want anyone to think badly of us.

But here's the thing: Being happy yourself is one of the best things you can do to help other people be happy, too! We've all had the experience of knowing someone who seems to light up a whole room when they enter it -- the kind of person who makes other people feel happy, just be being around them. Happiness has a ripple effect far beyond a single individual -- when you are happy, other people (your partner, your kids, your friends, etc.) notice and are themselves influenced by your mood.

This is not just anecdotal, there's scientific evidence: When you are happy, you boost the moods of everyone you encounter and (here's where it gets really cool) those people whose moods you have affected will then affect the moods of everyone they encounter, too!

The Happiness Cascade Effect

This happiness "cascade effect" was documented in a study published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal. Researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego discovered that "clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals" and that the happiness of single individuals affects even those they don't know... through three degrees of separation!

That means that if you are happy, not only does it make your friends happier, it also makes their friends happier and their friends' friends happier, too!

[I]f one person is happy, that increases the chances of happiness in a friend living within a mile by 25 percent. The "cascade" effect, as the researchers put it, continues: a friend of the friend has almost a 10 percent higher likelihood of being happy, and a friend of that friend has a 5.6 percent increased chance.

See? Happiness is contagious! So, far from being a selfish thing, the pursuit of your own happiness can be seen as a generous public service -- and perhaps even a civic duty of sorts, to increase the happiness of society as a whole!

Think how wonderful the world would be if we all did what made us happy. Wouldn't it be amazing to live in a world where we let go of the "shoulds" and followed our hearts to what was truly important to us?

Your happiness matters -- to all of us. So figure out what makes your heart sing... and then go out there and do it.

photo credit: pixabay.com (cc)

Nathalie Thompson is the author of fearLESS and Seven-Minute Stress Busters. A dream-building catalyst and motivational expert, she is the head Dream Catcher at VibeShifting.com where she helps people figure out what they really want in life and then shows them how to get it. Grab a free copy of her "5 Steps to Consciously Create Your Best Year Ever" template package and start building your dreams, today.