In a materialistic world where the powers that be encourage consumption and disassociation –– even while touting social media –the overall tone often seems to be creating high anxiety and unhappiness.
Look at the massive social phenomenon which swept in this country between 2001 and 2009.
We started generally a happy, upbeat people enjoying peace and prosperity for the most part, and wound up in endless wars, unemployment, and a general malaise over us, taught to be wary and suspicious of each other and of foreigners.
An entire generation came up which is presumed to be more positive but which blocks out one-on-one communication, preferring ear buds and “the internets” to dealing with people.
[I believe San Francisco is a rarity – an anomaly
(you ROCK San Francisco!).
It is a friendly, upbeat and vibrant place. People want to be here. Its energy is young and alive and appreciative of the beauty, of freedom, of others – even the quirky ones, of conversation with strangers over a truly great cup of coffee in a café on an interesting street]
But lest I digress…
On the whole, in this country, it seems as though the move from upbeat to a seeming downtrodden people was orchestrated – in part to keep the consumer separated, in high anxiety and unhappy, hooked on the desire of things to achieve happiness. Separated for fear of neighbor. Isolated from one another and the media focus on what seem (or are made to seem) to be massive systemic problems in the world. But as each thing is acquired and enjoyed briefly it becomes less than enough and the search is back on for another item. It’s an endless cycle.
And the punch line? In the end we do not achieve happiness. We will have spent years in grasping for things outside to make us feel good inside. I believe interiorly we know better. There is no blissful ignorance. Only willful.
We know that Madison Avenue and the powers-that-be are behind the drive towards consumption. And Madison Avenue and the powers-that-be are unconcerned about your happiness and mine. They just don’t care. They would prefer that we remain somnambulists lining up for the mall to open. Emotionless uncommunicative consumers with cell phones and credit cards, preferably tethered to the web as with an umbilical cord (shades of The Matrix!), shopping, surfing, posting periodic public notes on ‘walls‘ which do not exist, adding data to our NSA files.
But we know that Conscious Living is about being fully alive. It means being aware and engaged, not operating out of fears or solitude so much, albeit in a world which is as it is, not as I would have it. Simply striving to be happy.
I submit that being happy is a choice. And happiness has been found to be a social phenomenon. A contagion even!
Here are excerpts from a favorite article on the subject:
Happiness is contagious, spreading among friends, neighbors, siblings and spouses like the flu, according to a large study. For the first time it showed how emotion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other.
The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are (or become) happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor.
“You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience but it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious.”
And one person’s happiness can affect another’s for as much as a year, the researchers found.
Conversely, while unhappiness can also spread from person to person, the “infectiousness” of that emotion appears to be far weaker.
Previous studies have documented the common experience that one person’s emotions can influence another’s such as:
· laughter can trigger guffaws in others;
· seeing someone smile can momentarily lift one’s spirits.
But the new study is the first to find that happiness can spread across groups for an extended period.
When one person in the network became happy, the chances that a friend, sibling, spouse or next-door neighbor would become happy increased between 8 percent and 34 percent.
Yes, you read it right!
When one person becomes happy it has a trickledown effect and can rub off on a friend, partner, sibling or even a next door neighbor and increase the other person’s happiness 8 to 34 percent!
Is that crazy or what? And even more…
The happiness effect continued through three degrees of separation! With each degree it decreased progressively from 15 percent to 10 percent to about 6 percent before disappearing altogether…
(Nancy Drew call Bess and get out your magnifying glass for the Case of the Purloined Happiness!)
The findings provide striking new evidence of the power of social networks, which could have implications for public policy.
Happy people tend to be better off in myriad ways:
· being more creative,
· productive and
“So at a time when we’re facing economic difficulties, the message could be, ‘hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.’ ”
Unhappiness also appeared to be catching, but not as strongly: While having more friends may be important for a person’s happiness, the benefit of having more friends appears to be canceled out if they are unhappy, the researchers found.
Clearly a case of more is better unless they are bummers!
But you can be the beginning of a social phenomenon!
Do something contagious today!
Make a conscious choice to be happy.
Your friends and family just might catch it.
In the sense of “ the denial of any connection or involvement with somebody or something else,” from Encarta Dictionary
 Rob Stein, Staff Writer. (December 5, 2008). Happiness Can Spread Among People Like a Contagion, Study Indicates. The Washington Post, p. A8.
 Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard who helped conduct the study published online by BMJ, a British medical journal.