Jackie Gingrich Cushman

This time of year, colds and viruses spread rapidly from one person to another.  Anti-bacterial gel is a mainstay in the battle to stop the spread of germs and viruses.  Bottles of this stuff can be found in gyms, school, hospitals, cars, workplaces and mothers’ purses.  Those most concerned about the transmission of germs can be seen running around with bottles of Lysol spraying everything that does not move.

Often we view the spread of items as bad, but just consider the impact that could be had if, instead of spreading colds, we could spread happiness? 

According to the Gallup-Heathways Well-Being index released Jan. 8, 42 percent of Americans “experienced a lot of happiness and enjoyment without a lot of stress and worry,” while 13 percent of Americans said “they experienced daily worry and stress far outweighing their happiness and enjoyment.”  We are a group that could use a bit more happiness.

These statistics naturally lead to the questions: what are the causes of happiness and how can we make changes in our own lives to increase our own happiness and, potentially, the happiness of others?

Happiness is an elusive emotion, experienced at the individual level and caused by various factors.  Some might find happiness in reading a good book, while others might experience happiness in putting together Legos to create a Star Wars ship.  What influences well-being? According to a November 17, 2008 Gallup report, relationships and financial security affect our feelings of being well.

Gallup asked individuals to report feelings of financial security and interpersonal security.   Those who reported security in both areas also reported the highest scores of well-being.  Those who reported being financially secure but not interpersonally secure scored higher in well-being than did those who reported being interpersonally secure but not financially secure.  This might lead us to conclude that financial security affects us more than personal relationships do.  However, when subjects were asked about recent experiences that would indicate well-being (smiling and laughing the day before), they said that secure interpersonal relationships were more important and more influential. 

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.