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We all want to be happy - Everyone would like to live a happy life. So how do we enhance happiness? What is the most important factor in happiness? One important answer to these questions can be found in Chapter 3 of the book Authentic Happiness:
"A rich and fulfilling social life" is the key factor in happiness. We see that sentiment echoed in this article:
The Importance of Friendship
The philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Friendships are vital for wellbeing, but they take time to develop and can’t be artificially created. No wonder they are at risk of being neglected.
Nevertheless, the Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, believes that we are all aware of the value of friendship especially during difficult times. In his book, Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without, Rath makes the point that if you ask people why they became homeless, why their marriage failed or why they overeat, they often say it is because of the poor quality, or nonexistence, of friendships. They feel outcast or unloved.
The following article points out the same kind of thing:
Study reveals ‘secret ingredient’ in religion that makes people happier
“Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction,” said Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the study. “In particular, we find that friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier.”
Another reason why friends and social interactions increase happiness is because happiness is contagious. However, in order to be affected by this contagion, you have to interact with others:
Your whole world smiles with you
Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.
Barbara Frederickson' theory and all these studies utterly convinced me that it was worth trying hard to put more positive emotion into my life. Like many fellow occupants of the chilly half of the positivity distribution, I comfortably consoled myself with the excuse that how I felt didn't matter, because what I really valued was interacting successfully with the world. But feeling positive emotion is important, not just because it is pleasant in its own right, but because it causes much better commerce with the world. Developing more positive emotion in our lives will build friendship, love, better physical health, and greater achievement. Frederickson's theory also answers the questions that began this chapter: why do positive emotions feel good? Why do we feel anything at all?
Broadening and building - that is, growth and positive development - are the essential characteristics of a win-win encounter. Ideally, reading this chapter is an example of a win-win encounter: if I have done my job well, I grew intellectually by writing it, and so did you by reading it. Being in love, making a friend, and raising children are almost always huge win-wins. Almost every technological advance (for example, the printing press or the hybrid tea rose) is a win-win interaction. The printing press did not subtract an equivalent economic value from somewhere else; rather it engendered an explosion in value.
Herein lies the likely reason for feelings. Just as negative feelings are a "here-be-dragons" sensory system that alarms you, telling you unmistakably that you're in a win-lose encounter, the feeling part of positive emotion is also sensory. Positive feeling is a neon "here-be-growth" marquee that tells you that a potential win-win encounter is at hand. By activating an expansive, tolerant and creative mindset, positive feelings maximize the social, intellectual and physical benefits that will accrue.
One way to find friends is to become involved in some kind of community. That community could be found anywhere from your neighborhood, to a local group or organization that interests you, to a DecidingToBeBetter community in your area. One of the fundamental goals of DecidingToBeBetter is to help people form meaningful friendships.
Once you have a strong network of friends in place, what else can you do to enhance happiness? This page offers 11 additional suggestions:
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