Hang around with happy healthy people and reap the benefits

If you want to be happy and healthy, hang around happy and healthy people. Our emotions spread like wildfire to those we are in contact with. A smile begets a smile, a warm hello begets a warm hello. When you interact with someone who is feeling good that emotion is passed on, you smile, and begin to feel better yourself. Scientists studying this affect state that we tend to synchronize our moods and often our behaviors with those around us.  

Let’s start with moods, Fowler and Christakis in their Harvard Longitudinal study reported that your chances of being happy increase by 15% if a direct connection in your network is happy. Have you ever noticed this to be true for yourself? It is much easier to feel good around people who are also feeling good. We are not lone individuals but are influencing each other whether we like it or not. Other studies report similar findings, if you want to lose weight and get fit, hangout with others who eat healthy and exercise. Your chances of being overweight are directly connected to hanging out with overweight friends. This phenomenon is explored by the authors in other areas such as smoking, obesity, and enjoying work.

The idea of getting support to change behaviors has been around for a long time. Now more than ever the research in various areas is showing how important this is; the connection between social interaction and physical well-being (weight, fitness, healthy habits) is directly related. Rath and Harter in their book, Well-Being report over-time diet and exercise mimic those of your friends even more than your family. We know that for teens, peers have a greater impact on our behaviors than our family and this seems to be the case as we move into adulthood. Our friends have more impact on our physical well-being than our family.  Rath and Harter report that if your best friend has a very healthy diet and exercises you have a five times as likely chance to also eat healthy and stay fit. 

I have to say I have noticed this for myself as my good friend Kirsten makes me hike hills and mountains and refuses to just take a walk on the flats. I love the hikes but would more often than not choose a flatter route many days. The joy of being with her, talking as we move our buttocks with dogs yapping at our heels brings me great joy. Integrating our social interactions and our physical health inspires a great day.

 Peer pressure comes into play big time. If you want to change a habit or behavior spend more time with those people whom you want to be like; fit, healthy, happy, engaged.