A story in last week’s New York Times Magazine, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat?” pointed to the notion of “social contagion,” or—to put it more politely—that of influencing, and being influenced by, others. This is a phenomenon that Buddhists are already quite familiar with, the idea of interconnectedness.

Two social scientists have been conducting a research study of thousands of people in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts and their findings are fascinating. Trends including weight gain or loss, smoking, happiness, and even acne, follow clear patterns marked by clusters of social networks.

One especially interesting observation the scientists highlighted is that people have an effect on others they may not have actual interaction with. For instance, you might take up smoking and your best friend does not, but your best friend’s brother—whom you’ve never met—does. The network, they claim, extends to three people out. While there is no scientific proof to back this claim to date, the occurrence is so consistent that it’s virtually undeniable.

Think about the increased positive affect you can have on the world by way of these new findings. Not only can you extend happiness outward to the people you encounter, but according to these research findings, doing so will multiply the spread of happiness.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and be happy!

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