December 8, 2008

December 8, 2008 

Dear LoMA Family,


A new study out has found evidence that happiness is literally contagious. Some researchers from Harvard and University of California tracked the relationships of 5,000 people with their friends, neighbors and families for over twenty years. Over that time, these subjects filled out 50,000 surveys about their well-being. When the researchers did a computer analysis of this data, they found that people’s happiness was highly correlated to the happiness of their friends and neighbors and even with the happiness of their friends’ friends. For instance, one’s chances of being happy increased by 34%  if a next-door neighbor’s joy increased and 42% if a friend’s happiness improved. Looking at the timing of these surveys, they found that when people report changes from happiness to unhappiness, or visa-versa, other people in their social network changed their social states in the same manner. Other studies support this contagious element of happiness as well. For instance, in a survey of 1,700 Facebook pages, researchers found that people who smile in their profile pictures typically have more cyber-friends than those who do not. Furthermore, they found that those cyber-friends were more likely to smile in their profiles. Another study showed that even faking a smile actually increased people’s happiness as it can trick the mind into releasing happy chemicals in the brain (frowns can do the opposite).


All of this rings true for me. I know that I am happier when the people around me are happy, and people who are always sad or angry can bring me down. If this is true for everyone, then we are all really connected in our emotional states. If our friends’ friends are upset, it makes our friends upset and infects us just like a virus. If we can remember that happiness is contagious, maybe we can smile more, be nicer to each other, and treat each other with respect. The happiness we produce will then infect our friends and their friends and ultimately come back and infect us again.


To increase this happiness I have some good news about two policy changes we are implementing for the new marking period. Students who come in late to school will no longer have to report to the cafeteria for lunch. The flipside to this good news is that advisors are going to become stricter about failing students who are late or inexcusably absent a marking period. If student fails advisory for a term, he or she must attend summer school or will not graduate. We are also adjusting the three pink slip rule to three a marking before a suspension for the next two marking periods and two a marking period for the last two marking periods of the year. In addition to suspensions, students will suffer a wider variety of sanctions for school infractions that lead to a pink slip. If we can all smile a bit more and treat others more nicely, however, the research says that we’ll all feel better and have less need for pink slips.


Be Happy,



John Wenk