Invest in Friends that Make You the Happiest (Discard the Rest)

Those old, dead, white guys who founded our country some 250 years ago had it right, in my view, when they coined the phrase “the pursuit of happiness.” Turns out, happiness is perhaps the most subjective thing we can imagine and at that, it is fleeting.

What makes us happy one minute may disappear the next. And when we have seemingly achieved “happiness,” it can be snatched away, leaving us back in the hunt, back in pursuit. Nothing about happiness can ever be guaranteed and no amount of income tax and the tasking of our government to deliver happiness will ever work. Ever.

Hence, “the pursuit of happiness.”

Hence, “fleeting.”

One thing is for certain, however, and that is that who you surround yourself with can make the biggest difference of all. Those so-called “right people,” those who are additive to your life and not “life suckers” as it were.

Therefore, according to Dr. Moran Cerf of Northwest University, the best way to boost happiness is to be very picky about who you spend time with. Indeed, this may be the most important decision in the “pursuit of happiness” that you can make.

Choosing the right friends is important because close relationships cause our brainwaves to resemble those of the people we spend most time with. This means you start becoming alike and picking up their desirable behaviors and ways of seeing the world without being conscious of it.  According to Dr Cerf the best way to achieve long-term satisfaction is to surround yourself with the right people.

The more we study engagement, we see time and again that just being next to certain people actually aligns your brain with theirs. This means the people you hang out with have an impact on your engagement with reality beyond what you can explain. And one of the effects is you become alike.

Therefore, choices matter: The right friends contribute to right choices.

Years ago, I lamented the explosion of choice in everyday life. McDonald’s, for example, long the bastion of the simple menu, succumbed to market pressures and tripled their available options. Indeed, it takes something like 8 different menu pages to display what you can order, up from the one-page approach they’d long held.

Let’s face it, decision making is one of the banes of modern life. We are faced with innumerable choices throughout the day and candidly, it is debilitating. Dr. Cerf, on the other hand, believes that for a happy life people should minimize decision-making altogether. And choosing the right friends contributes to making the right choices.

Dr. Cerf points out that we believe making the right choices – such as choosing the right clothes or the right places to go on vacation – will make us more satisfied with our lives. And when it comes to which restaurant to visit, or what to order once there, the most important decision isn’t on the menu at all! And that is the decision who to go with!

Turns out, when people spend time with each other their brainwaves start to resemble one another. This means you will naturally pick up their behaviors and way of seeing the world without being conscious of it.

If people want to be make life improvements, such as reading more or getting better at cooking, they should spend their time with someone who has those desirable traits.

This means the people you hang out with actually have an impact on your engagement with reality beyond what you can explain. And one of the effects is you become alike.

Researchers have previously suggested this ‘neural coupling’ is a key part of communication.  If we are on the same wavelength as someone else, we can anticipate what they might say and therefore understand them better. This in turn has an evolutionary advantage as it means we work better and faster as a team.

Impacts upon students in a college course.

In April researchers from New York University and Utrecht University found people’s brainwaves sync up with their colleagues at work. They used electroencephalography technology (EEG) to record the brain activity of students and their teacher over the course of a term. This is a non-invasive method of recording the electrical activity of the brain using electrodes placed on the scalp.

Students were asked how much they liked each other and the teacher, and also reported how much they liked group activities in general. The results showed a positive correlation between a student’s ratings of the course and the student’s brain synchronization with her classmates as a group.

In other words, the more a student’s brain waves were in sync with those in the classroom as a whole, the more likely she was to give the course a favorable rating.

The researchers also found that pairs of students who felt closer to each other were more in sync during class, but only if they interacted face-to-face just before class.  This suggests that having face-to-face interaction before sharing an experience matters – even if you’re not interacting in the experience itself.

Not only do friends make us happy, but bonds between friends get much stronger with age.

Eventually, they can even outweigh the benefits of family relationships, according to another study published in June. Friendships play a key role in health and happiness – especially as we get older, revealed dual studies involving thousands of participants around the world.

These relationships can ‘make a world of difference,’ researchers say, and even affect how we respond to illness.

The research, from Michigan State University, included two studies: one on relationships and self-rated health and happiness, and another on relationship support/strain and chronic illness.

Friendships become even more important as we age, so, it’s smart to invest in the friendship that make you happiest.

Is say, surround yourself with life-givers and discard everyone else.

About Dr Joseph Russo

Born and raised in Woodland Hills, California; now residing in Laramie, Wyoming (or “Laradise” as we call it, for good reason), with my wife Cindy, our little schnauzer, Macy Mae, and a cat named Markie. I am a counselor/therapist by trade and passion, presently undergoing licensure in the State of Wyoming as a PPC. I hold a BBA from Cal State Northridge and an MBA from the University of Nevada at Reno. My first career was in business, for some 25+ years. In 2007, I shifted gears and entered the helping professions as a mental health counselor. I earned an MA in Educational Psychology and a Doctorate (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision. In my spare time I enjoy mentoring young and not-so-young business and non-profit executives as they go about growing their businesses and presence. I also teach part-time at the University of Wyoming, in both the Colleges of Education and Business.

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