Is a Smile Contagious?

Well-being is a combination of five interrelated elements that, when balanced, lead to a fuller, healthier existence. This is the second of a five-part series on the Five Elements of Well-being, a healthy life initiative from Texas Health Resources.

Social Connection

How do the people around you influence you every day? And what is your impact on them?

Here’s some good news: something that spreads even faster than a bad bug and is more contagious than any illness is something that can have a positive effect on our lives — a smile. Sound corny? It shouldn’t. Emotions spread quickly from one person to the next — when you see a friend who is happy, this often causes you to smile. Because we tend to synchronize our moods with the people around us, our emotions influence one another throughout the day.

Do you have relationships that positively influence your life? Perhaps more importantly, do you take time to invest in them?

Having and investing in your social connections is an important component of well-being. Not surprisingly, the strongest of our relationships are those that include shared mutual friends with other people close to us. Our networks can influence our personal well-being, so positively investing in them not only improves our lives, but also those of the people around us.

Tricia Nguyen, M.D.

Tricia Nguyen, M.D.

“People with thriving social connections have relationships that give them positive energy on a daily basis,” says Tricia Nguyen, M.D., executive vice president of population health and president of Texas Health Population Health, Education & Innovation Center. “Studies suggest that to have a thriving day, we need six hours of social interaction per day. This includes activities at work, at home, on the telephone or even sending e-mail. Also, every three hours of social time reduces the chances of having a bad day to 10 percent.”

In our busy lives, it’s easy for us to take our social network for granted, or to simply wish we had more time to catch up with our friends. Take some time to check in on your network. Maybe invite a friend, family member or co-worker out for a long walk — catch up and do something healthy for each other at the same time. That’s what friends are for, right?

How do you make time for your social relationships? Tell us about it.

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