The Science Behind Why Everything We Do Matters

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 · 5 Comments

Life is full of actions and reactions. This is what makes up the world around us from the trees we see, to the relationships that are kindled and to the babies that come from them. Every single thing we do matters. When Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” underlying that was the simple assumption that everything we do matters.  Now we know the science behind the wisdom of his words, and why it can not only help the world, but can have a significant impact on our mental health.

Part of understanding the science isn’t a whole lot different than the understanding of neuroplasticity. How we pay attention and what we pay attention to influences the way ourbrain grows throughout the lifespan. So if we have a continuous series of moments where we are paying attention to negative thoughts and worrying, so goes the brain. If we have a continuous series of moments where we are cultivating self-compassion, joy and curiosity in life, so goes the brain.

In the same way, we can have this impact not only on our mental health, but on the world as a whole. You may not be a single force in solving the Middle East conflict or in reversing global warming, but everything you do matters. In order to better understand why everything you do matters, it’s important to understand how emotional contagion works:

In The Now Effect you may have read about the science behind why everything you do matters,

The social scientists Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD, conducted a study to look at the effect of social networks. To determine if there was a causal relationship for obesity, they mapped the relationships of 12,067 people who had more than 50,000 connections to other people that were assessed repeatedly from 1971 to 2003 (not online social networks such as Facebook but physical networks of people). They found that, indeed, “birds of a feather flock together.” However, they found something much more interesting: obesity doesn’t start and stop with immediate friends and family; it is “contagious” by up to three degrees of separation.

They also went on to find that loneliness is contagious by three degrees and that each person you have in your life that feels well boosts your chance of feeling well by 9%. In other words, the way people behave is contagious and causes a ripple effect across friends of friends of friends.

Think of it this way,

“When carbon atoms are arranged in a specific way, they make a diamond, but the diamond is not in each carbon atom. In the same way, each of our roles in mindfully engaging life can create a much larger social effect that is greater than each of us alone, having a significant influence on shaping our culture for the years to come and providing enormous healing.” ~ The Now Effect

Starting right now, get clear on what’s most important to you in life. What is something you care about that is greater than yourself? Maybe it’s the planet, or helping distressed people within your country or outside your country, or making a political impact.

Taking action alongside these values not only will make you feel good, but will also have reverberations that make this world a better place. Believe it.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction makes a living wisdom we can all benefit from.

Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy


  1. February 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    One of my favourite folk singers, Judy Small, had a song many years ago, called “One Voice in the Crowd”. The chorus always made me feel optimistic, just as this post does. “One brick in the wall, you may be one voice in the crowd, but without you we are weaker and our song may not be heard…. One drop in the ocean, but each drop will swell the tide, so be your one brick in the wall, be one voice in the crowd!” Sometimes we think we are so small and insignificant that our actions don’t matter. Thanks for this reminder that they do matter…. That we matter. 🙂

  2. Jane
    February 16, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. It explains so much of how people absorb negativity and pass it on. The same is true with happiness…take it in and pass it on.

  3. Lynne Walker
    February 16, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Great article, thank you. I believe the more often this information is shared in different ways the greater the impact will be evidenced in the world. My understanding from many years of teaching Reiki is that as we learn from and resolve our personal issues – often by changing our perception and/or learning to focus on compassion – it creates a ripple effect, reaching others who are facing similar issues.

  4. Tom Laughlin
    February 16, 2016 at 11:56 am

    This is the best article I have read in some time!!! If only we could spread this science around the world!!! I guess it may start with me!

  5. Ed
    February 16, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Learning to invite positive people into my circle of life.

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