How social relationships affect our happiness

Kevin Gaylord and Shea Snider are cousins and best friends who have benefited from their personal social relationship.

It is easy to get caught up in the tumult of deadlines and expectations as a BYU student, so easy that people forget to stop and be happy. Surrounding oneself with good friends and happy people is just what’s needed to rejuvenate charisma.

Some psychologists have concluded that by seeking happiness through education and success at the expense of a strong social circle, one may be missing the mark.

Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that the No. 1 contributor to happiness is the quality of a person’s social circle and that it’s human nature for people to pursue one.

“I think we pursue positive relationships whether or not they bring us happiness,” Seligman said regarding personal relationships.

Kevin Gaylord and Shea Snider have been cousins ever since they can remember and knew they would always be best friends when they met for the first time at Disneyland. They have become such close friends since then that they are often accused of sharing the same brain.

“Shea has always been more artistic than me, but I’ve always been a little better at school,” Gaylord said. “Her Dad always claims that when you put us together you get one complete brain.”

Being friends for so long has presented several opportunities for Gaylord and Snider to provide support for each other and be happier, something that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

A sociologist at the University of California at Berkeley, Christine Carter, agrees that social connections are connected with our happiness.

“The upshot of 50 years of happiness research is that the quantity and quality of a person’s social connections is so closely related to well-being and personal happiness, the two can practically be equated,” Carter said. “People with many friendships are less likely to experience sadness, loneliness, low self-esteem and problems with eating and sleeping.”

Happiness, and the happiness of others, can be contagious. When explaining this, Jared Warren, a professor of positive psychology at BYU, explained how people connect with others.

“We pick up on the moods and cognitive styles of the people we spend a lot of time with,” Warren said.

The more time spent with positive people will influence moods and behaviors. Warren has categorized different moods and behaviors of happy people into three separate categories: People, Perception and Power.


Warren shared that happy people enjoy being in loving social relationships. They seek them out and enjoy the idea of being interconnected with friends and the community. They are also full of compassion, patience and altruism toward others. They find that helping others can produce a helper’s high, which can be a source of happiness and confidence.


Happy people are good at paying attention to and noticing the great things in their life. Warren further stated that they are full of gratitude and optimism.  They tend to have a sense of purpose in their lives and are engaged in values and goals, yet maintain a calm perspective.


Warren explains that happy people are good at knowing how to effectively interact with their environment. They are engaged and work toward goals with courage. They have self-efficacy and confidently work to achieve their goals. They are seekers of happiness, and they find it.

Warren concluded that friendships should ideally provide support.

“Friendships are definitely a big source of emotional support,” Warren said. “What’s often most helpful is making sure that we have the kind of people around us that can provide the type of support that we need.”

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