"Happiness is the only thing that multiples when you share it." ~Albert Schweitzer, a German physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Several years ago I started having severe pain in my neck and shoulder. I have some disk issues in my neck, which a steroid shot seemed to help. But my shoulder problem had been pretty unresponsive to convention medicine. My pain was chronic and often a 10 on the subjective units of distress scale.The culprit: bone spurs.
I really was not up to even thinking about surgery. So, the physical therapist recommended strengthening my upper body. To a girl who never has even tried to do a push up, this did not sound very fun. No, not at all. But, I had to do something. My solution was to start Vinyasa yoga at Xplore Yoga. This type of yoga has many upper body strengthening postures. It was perfect for my goals. And now, I am happy to say that after just over a year of practicing I am completely pain free in my shoulder.
Being out of pain is great but the really cool and fun part about all of this is that I can do all kinds of things I never ever dreamed of doing at my age. Several months ago I accomplished dolphin forearm stand for the first time. I was so excited and happy and shocked that I could do this pose, I got a fellow yogi to take a picture of me in the posture and stared sharing it with just about anybody who was willing to look at it. I was so happy.
Then a funny thing started to happen. Even though everyone I shared with was genuinely happy for me in my accomplishments after my excitement died down, I started to feel this slight awkward feeling of, "Oh God. Have I shared too much of my happiness? Maybe I should have kept my joy to myself? People probably don't really want to know about this."
Whoops. Too late.
Today I learned from a listserv I am on that a study showed that sharing our joy or happiness is good for everybody as long as there is positive feedback. It may even cause the joy to multiple. A colleague shared a recent study by Nathaniel Lambert and colleagues at Brigham Young University as to why this may be. Their research shows that discussing positive experiences leads to heightened well-being, increased overall life satisfaction and even more energy.
"The researchers found that people who habitually tend to talk to people they are close with about the good things that are happening to them also tend to feel happier and more satisfied with life. They also found that, the more these people shared their happiness with someone on a given day, the happier and more satisfied they were on that particular day. To actually determine whether sharing happiness caused this boost in well-being, the researchers then invited participants into a laboratory with a romantic partner or friend. Participants were asked to write down a positive experience or a neutral experience like a fact they had learned in class and either share it with their partner or not. Those that shared a positive experience with their partner experienced a greater boost in well-being than those who did not share their experience with their partner or who shared a neutral experience with their partner. These findings suggest that it is the act of sharing happiness (and not of just thinking about happiness but not sharing it, or of sharing neutral information) that boosts well-being.
One reason that the study asked participants to share their experience with close friends or romantic partners may come from the fact that these people may be more likely to support us. In the study’s last experiment, the researchers noticed that participants that received constructive, encouraging, enthusiastic and positive messages after a successful experience (high achievement on a test) showed greater signs of happiness, love and appreciation. We’ve all experienced sharing an exciting event or plan with someone who did not respond in kind or, worse, criticized our idea and left us deflated. When sharing a positive experience, it is important to select a supportive listener.
The bottom line: sharing our joy increases joy. Telling people about our happiness has far greater benefits than just remembering it or writing it down for ourselves. This research may also help partially explain research by Nicholas Kristakis and James Fowler which has shown that our well-being influences that of those around us, up to 3 levels of separation. To try and be happy may seem like a selfish endeavor but it is actually a worthwhile goal to pursue not just for oneself but for our communities. In turn, we can help support others’ joy by encouraging them to share their most positive experiences, and the things they feel grateful for. Supporting a friend or acquaintance's well-being in turn may impact not only ourselves but the well-being of all the people connected to that friend. Albert Schweitzer, a German physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was right when he said 'Happiness is the only thing that multiplies when you share it.' "
Summary by: Natalie Engelbrecht, ND
Evelyn Schmechtig Cochran