Every time I watch this hilarious video of a little girl cheering herself on, I think: Her parents must be pretty happy people. I don’t know for sure, of course, but my guess is that they model happiness and confidence and gratitude on a daily basis, and she’s simply copying them.
So whenever I see research which shows that parents are, on average, less happy than their childless counterparts, my heart sinks. Equally devastating to me is the research that reveals how my generation of women is unhappier than previous generations. If we aren’t happy, our children aren’t likely to be happy, either.
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Many parents today are unhappy, but they assume that their stress and anxiety and even depression are all just part of being a parent today.
Researchers know a lot about why parents, particularly women, are less happy today than they have been in previous generations, and we have a pretty good idea how to fix it. The new science of happiness gives us a clear roadmap—a guide to those activities, skills, and beliefs that are highly likely to raise our happiness.
Happiness is a Property of Groups
Although we usually think of happiness as being an individual trait or a function of our personal experience, it isn’t just those things. It is also a property of our social groups!
Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler explain how:
"We found that social networks have clusters of happy and unhappy people within them that reach out to three degrees of separation. A person’s happiness is related to the happiness of their friends, their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends—that is, to people well beyond their social horizon…And we found that each additional happy friend increases a person’s probability of being happy by about 9 percent."
Emotions spread so rapidly that your happiness can affect not just your children, spouse and close friends, but 258 people in a single day. According to Christakis and Fowler, every time you feel an emotion—whether it is hope or anger, gratitude or fear—it spreads to six people you know: family and friends, neighbors and coworkers. Then it spreads AGAIN, to six people each of them know, and AGAIN, to 6 people each of THOSE people know. By the end of the day? Your emotion has touched 258 others.
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This means that the best way to raise happy children is to be happy ourselves, and to spread happiness in our communities.
Please join our movement of parents who spread happiness by practicing simple skills that bring more joy into their own lives and into the lives of their children.