Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
February seems like an appropriate month to ask the fundamental question: What does it take to be happy?
For one, many of you are either still digging out of snow or drudging through the gray days in a season filled with cold and slush. Or if you're single, you may find the plethora of hearts and candy that surrounds you this week enough to induce gagging. (You may find this to be true even if you are happily married).
Here's the good news for those looking for a mood boost: It turns out that when you give a senior some of that candy, or a nice note, you may be helping their brain.
A new study in Cognition and Emotion involved researchers inducing a group of seniors into a positive mood by giving them small bags of candy tied with a red ribbon. The other group of seniors did not receive anything. The positive mood group also faced a computer screen with smiling suns; the neutral group only saw round images.
Surprise: The seniors put into a positive mood did better on a decision-making test and a working-memory test.
It's also worth remembering that a 2008 study discovered happiness is contagious.
The fundamental result of that British Medical Journal study was that people who are surrounded by happy people are likely to become happy in the future.
Researchers also found live-in partners who become happy increase the likelihood of their partner being happy by 8%, and similar effects were seen for siblings who live nearby.
What does this all mean for those of you finding it difficult to be happy? Buy some candy; give it to your residents or coworkers (especially if you are dumping paperwork on the latter group). Spend time with your partner doing something fun, or go visit your sister. Remember that, as tough as your jobs can be, you are providing a valuable service to your community.
Have other ideas? Please share them below.