By Allana Baroni
The results are in—both happiness and sadness are infectious diseases! That’s what a study started in 1948 has concluded. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Harvard/MIT researchers have provided definitive evidence that positive and negative emotional states act like infectious diseases, spreading through social circles. Also, a single instance of discontent doubles your chance of becoming unhappy, while one happy occasion increases your chances of being happy by only 11 percent. So in order to beat the moody blues, you have to experience almost five times more happy than sad. The good news is that you don’t need to catch happiness from other people (although you can)—happy is more likely to occur spontaneously than sad. But don’t rely on random acts. Take control of your treatment and write yourself a prescription from Dr. Feelgood for a booster shot of good vibes at least once a day. Don’t worry, the prognosis is good!
Take a little piece of something that makes you smile with nostalgia and bring it back into your life. For actress Gwyneth Paltrow, that means preparing recipes she cooked with her late father. In her recent Vogue interview with Jeffrey Steingarten, Gwyneth says, “I always feel closest to my father, who was the love of my life until his death in 2002, when I’m in the kitchen.” In her upcoming book My Father’s Daughter, to be released in spring of 2011, she explains, “Health food was never really on the menu, it was about fun and deliciousness and togetherness.”
For me it was picking berries with my mom. We’d go to those family farms where you pick the berries yourself and take home your bounty. She’d always tell the farmers: “Better weigh my daughter on the way in and on the way out so you can charge for all the berries she eats out there!”
Having berries on hand makes me happy—fresh from the farmers market, frozen when that’s not possible, and picked ourselves when ripe on the berry plants we have at home. When I really need a lift, it’s off to the pick-your-own-fruit farm with my family to pass on the good times and the good-health tradition!
We’ve all been there, on the verge of a meltdown, then a friend calls and drags you out-and-about. Sure thing, you feel better just changing your environment and running with your compadres. But this simple act has more power than you might think. Social interaction has been found to help cancer patients actually reduce their cancerous growths. So if being more social can help cure what ails you, then kicking your social life up a notch in the name of health is one big giant permission slip to get down with the group.
Remove yourself from isolation and resist all temptations to fuss over the little things—like stressing over parking, schedules or whatever roadblocks keep you from being with your friends. The act can be as simple as watching the world go by from your front porch, a sidewalk cafe or a park bench. I go for talk therapy via a lazy game of dominoes while chopping up some end-of-day chit-chat. Just enough distraction to take my mind away from anything serious. I have a few travel sets of the game and have taken up collecting and giving sets of “bones” (the nickname for dominoes) to friends and family.
It’s a mood changer! I spoke with Dr. Uzzi Reiss, a world-renowned doctor, anti-aging expert and author of The Natural Superwoman, and he put it best: “We live unnatural lives; our bodies were created for a primitive life, so we are left with very few pure functions. One of them is breathing, and another is sexuality. What we have to accomplish each day changes, but the soulful, sexual functions that don’t cost anything end up last on our to-do list, when they should be first.”
Here’s what Dr. Reiss suggests for getting in the habit of being intimate every day.
Reconsider your Bedtime Rituals
Some people read books, some watch TV, but be sure to end with five or 10 minutes of intimacy. It can be massage or light touching, and if it leads to more, then follow it. If you drift off, just breathing close to each other, then you still have made an intimate connection.