It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“There’s an assumption that happy people strike others as annoying and shallow, but in fact, they tend to attract others. Happy people are more likely to be energetic, sociable, enthusiastic, and optimistic, in contrast to the unhappy, who are often apathetic, more likely to complain, and sap others’ energy.” (Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin)
I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin, both as an author and a person. Her books and blog are both inspiring, and I really love that they give small actionable steps to increasing your happiness. You don’t have to move to Bali or become a professional chef to be happier. You can just make your bed everyday, or kiss more, and voila! Happiness boost.
Gretchen’s latest happiness book, Happier at Home, hit bookshelves yesterday (check it out), and I love the section on “avoiding happiness leeches.” Basically, to increase her own happiness, Gretchen resolves to stay away from people that actively deplete her happiness bank. As she puts it: “Because happiness and unhappiness are a catching, a potent source of unhappiness are the happiness leeches who suck away the lifeblood of happiness from others.” She goes on to identify three types of leeches: Grouches, Jerks and Slackers.
I find this research fascinating, because I’ve known it to be so true. Hanging out with friends who are generally happy, even just in an especially good mood, is a great boost, while hanging out with people who are unhappy is exhausting. I used to have a friend who was constantly stressed out, complaining of all the reasons why her life was so hard. By the time our get-togethers would end, I too would feel stressed out. Stress by osmosis. It’s not a good feeling.
There’s research to support this stress contagion too. “Because of the ‘spillover effect,’ when we see others act like grouches, jerks, or slackers, we’re more likely to imitate them–both because that kind of behavior is on our minds, and because our inhibitions have been lowered. Research shows that the group member who scored lowest on conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability often sets the tone for the whole group.”
So there you have it. When looking for new friends, seek out the happy folks around you. Chances are it’ll help you be happy! And, as a friend yourself, consider your attitude. No one wants to be around a happiness leech, so try to slap on a smile and feign a good mood. Fake it ’till you make it, right?
Do you find that being around happy friends makes you happier? And, do your happiness leech friends get you down? Any tips on how to handle them?
Gretchen Rubin herself read MWF Seeking BFF and said “I couldn’t put it down.” (Thanks Gretchen!) As of Sunday, MWF is on the Emerging Authors shelf at Target, so check it out there… or wherever books are sold! I’d be ever so grateful.