Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Collective Joy

Barbara Ehrenrich wrote in her most recent work, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, "We are social beings, impelled almost instinctively to share our joy, and therefore able to envision, perhaps even create, a more peaceful future."

I would love to take the time to explore the theory of collective joy. There have been numerous studies that have found people are happier, more positive, more productive and more hopeful when part of a large group. During the holiday season, we face many group gatherings in a small period of time. Wouldn't it be wonderful to prove that people are happier in groups? This may even convince you to take part in all that the holiday's have to offer. Many people are discouraged by group gatherings, fearing they will be scrutinized, criticized or rejected. What they need to understand and appreciate is that the group setting can often give people a stronger sense of community, friendship, support and understanding, as well as happiness.

A few years ago, on the gorgeous island of the Bahamas, my family and I decided to venture over to the Atlantis Hotel for New Years Eve. I was fighting with my fiance, my two-year-old niece had just peed on me and I was feeling incredibly depressed. Suddenly the sound of distant drums beating piqued my interest. What happened next changed my understanding of human nature and our own emotional ability to be encouraged into a state of complete happiness. The Junkanoo street parade was travelling through the Atlantis hotel. People started to gather around, cheering on the dancing street performers in colorful and extravagent costumes. The celebratorial atmosphere, combined with the collective joy of the surrounding group, boosted my mood and caused me to recognize the happiness and excitement that was swirling all around me. It was a celebration of the holidays, of the New Year, of people united and of life. It was a declaration of the happiness of existence and the unexpected joys of life.

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