The Circle of Life

Lynne McTaggart

I was struck by a tiny item in the newspaper the other day that seems to speak to these hard economic and political times and also this special Thanksgiving weekend. It concerned Dr. Richard Tunney, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham, in Great Britain, who’d carried out a study for the UK’s National Lottery examining levels of happiness and overall satisfaction with life among those who’d won the lottery, compared with a sampling of non-winners across the nation. 


Approximately 1800 people participated in the survey, which examined how satisfied they were with their lives and achievements and also the kinds of relationships they had with friends, including when they met, how often they speak, which activities they participate in together and the number of new friends they made in the last two years. 


Tunney discovered that achievements and even money mattered a good deal less than friendship. Those with five friends or fewer had a 60 per cent chance of being unhappy, irrespective of their economic status or of whether they had won the lottery.  Those with five close friends had a 50 per cent chance of being happy, but by far the happiest were those with at least 10 friends, who had about a 55 per cent of being happy and satisfied with their lot in life.


Furthermore, those people who counted themselves as ‘extremely satisfied’ with their lives had twice as many friends as those who were ‘extremely dissatisfied’ with their lives.


The critical mass of friends required to ensure happiness appeared to be 10; adding on more friends didn’t significantly increase the participants’ levels of happiness. 


Furthermore, those who were happiest of all were part of a small close-knit social circle that had existed for a long time.


Dying of a broken heart

 Dr Dean Ornish, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the School for Medicine, University of California at San Francisco, has collected copious research on the various causes of heart disease. He has discovered that while smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and high-fat diet are important risk factors, they only account for half of all heart disease. No one risk factor appears more important than isolation —from other people, from our own feelings and from a higher source.


In studies in San Francisco and in Eastern Finland among the nearly 20,000 people observed for up to nine years, those who were lonely and isolated socially were two to three times more likely to die from heart disease and other causes than those who felt connected to others. The results occurred independently of risk factors such as high cholesterol levels or high blood pressure, smoking and family history.


Every so-called lifestyle risk factor had less to do with someone having a heart attack than loneliness. How much you smoke or what you eat doesn’t seem to have as much bearing on your health as a lack of connection.


Tribe of ten

For a number of years, I have supported the creation of micro communities of eight or more on my Intention Experiment website, who correspond solely through the website but nevertheless develop close and supportive relationships. After regularly communicating and forming strong, cohesive bonds, these small groups have demonstrated effects that are nothing short of miraculous.


This bonding can occur in a single weekend. During our Living with Intention weekend workshops, we divide the audience of attendees into small groups of 10 or more teach them techniques of group intention and have them practice healing intention on members of their group with health challenges. On the final day of the workshop, we ask both healers and healees to share any physical or psychological changes, for better or worse, that they’ve experienced over the weekend.


We are often witness to stories of seemingly extraordinary healings. To cite one example, Marsha, I’ll call her, had developed an opacity in one cornea, largely blocking the vision of one eye.  The following day, after her group’s healing intention, she claimed that her sight in that eye had been 80 per cent restored.


On this Thanksgiving weekend, may I suggest that you gather around and connect with your own tribe of 10 closest and dearest. By doing so, you will remind yourself in these hard times of what you have to be most thankful for.


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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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27 comments on “The Circle of Life”

  1. Oh how true this seems to be. I tend to be a lonely person, and am very thankful for my lovely wife, who always seems to be the hub for several circles of friends. I am definitely a healthier person for being the beneficiary of these circles of friends.

  2. Wonderful comments Lynne- we're definitely conditioned by our culture, and even a lot of the "success" technology that says millions of dollars in the bank equals success and happiness. I think there are going to be a lot of positive side effects from this economic downturn, though it might not feel like a good thing! Just like when the price of gas (petrol!) soared, people began taking a close look at their lives and the choices they made. I think the same thing is happening on a wider scale here.
    Guess this is what we'll all intended!
    Nick Ortner

  3. You've really hit on a key here - a soft science breakthrough. The factors of friendship and happiness have so much to do with health, the level of our energy vibration frequency, and are always involved in other objective scientific studies and investigations (but beyond their view) that suggest other things are more important and scientifically proven to be essential.

  4. I am a Practitioner of The BodyTalk System and we establish a yes/no response using the wrist in order to consult the innate wisdom of the body; we thereby identify what needs reconnecting, addressing and in which order; with regards to heart disease, in my experience, there is always an emotional can be sadness, loss, a lack of love of self and others and loneliness. The health of the body is inextricably linked to that of the mind, emotions and spirit.

  5. Might not the fact that a person has a positive outlook on life actually attract more friends into his/her life rather than the corollary. (Although the presence of positive friends will undoubtedly increase the positive field around the "hub" as well.

  6. My parents won the lotto in 1998 and were dead broke 4 years later, and it split them apart. It took another 6 years after that before they reunited.
    I researched the reasons why so many lotto winners end up the same way my parents did (95% of lotto winners end up losing it all and many even more), and my research taught me that it has everything to do with self-image.
    This article highlights for me the importance of self-image, and is something that I emphasize with my children who are constantly sucked into the hype of having to 'fit in' to societies ways. Sounds familiar doesn't it, comparing this to societies success measures.
    Those who prefer to be isolated and not part of close-knit groups only need change their self-image, if indeed happiness is something they are seeking but don't know where to find it.

  7. My happiest times were the five years I belonged to a local Toastmasters group (public speaking). We were like family, and it's still a thrill to run into them from time to time. For many reasons, we all moved on to other things. I don't know why close groups don't always last. My own family is spread across the U.S. in five different states. I still have between 8 and 10 friends, some of them for 10 of 15 years, but it's sad sometimes when I think of the really close groups I've been a part of, that aren't together anymore.

  8. I recently attended a four day event created by T. Harv Eker's Peak Potentials called All Your Relations. This "wealth" guru decided that it was high time we focused on what REALLY made us happy - relationships.
    Bravo for spreading this important piece of heart-information!
    Dr. Karen

  9. Is it just me or is it harder than ever to find like minded people to create a hub of connectedness with. When I was younger I wasn't a social butterfly and was ostracized at school, so kept to my self. As a young married person I was busy having children that kept me busy. A lot of people my age at the time were still in the social party scene & if they weren't they often wouldn't drop in because they thought I was very busy already. My social circle was my large family of 6 kids and most importantly my best friend & loving husband. Now we are down to one child left at home who is all but ready to head out on her own next year. I find myself not knowing how to develop a social network of close friends outside my own family unit (they now live a few hours away) I watch my children as well as my two sisters & my brother, they all seem to have those critical long lasting connections to close knit friends and wonder how they did it. I am feeling like a social misfit and I am sure I must not be the only one out there feeling like this, but how does one start making those connections. These days it is so much easier to sit in a quiet room typing away on the computer still not interacting in a physical /emotional manner with anyone. Then there is the television that takes up so much of peoples time. I have found now that my kids are grown that trying to get together with other still isn't easy. People often are so involved with their programs that I feel like I am imposing myself upon them. Is it my lot to never have that circle of connectedness to anyone other than my husband & kids. What am I to do about it? Money to do things or go places is limited so now what? Am I destined to pass over younger than I should because I have no connections, no social circle to speak of. If I passed over today who other than my family would come to my funeral. Possibly those I interact with at work but there is no close knit socializing outside of work. I find I don' t even know how to go about getting that group. These aren't complaints as much as they are observations because I know the world does not revolve around me but there are just so many lonely lonely people out there not even knowing how or where to start developing a social network that they can call their own. How does one reach out to even meet the neighbors I have tried & it isn't that easy, people these days sure are intent is seems to keep to themselves for the most part. Count yourself blessed if you have developed that long lasting close social network. It isn't as easy as it seems it should be. Am I a happy person for the most part yes. I am a very happy & optimistic person but I do feel the lack of that close social network and wonder if I'll ever be part of one. Namaste

  10. I can empathize with most of the comments but I really resonate Lisa's feelings. Many things in our background seem similiar, I would enjoy communicating with her. How could I do so? Cherie

  11. It seems to me that the american society is lacking something...perhaps the ability to bond with others, from what I read and even your comments. I live in Caracas, Venezuela and I have many friends...some from the university, some from work, some from hobbies or classes I attend...and sometimes I complain! Do we latin people know how to make friends better? I think it's something inherent to the different the way I'm very happy and try to look at the bright side of life...

  12. I find your articles and readers comments fascinating. Each comment hinges on one critical factor - 'Know thyself'. The circumstances in our lives are all outcomes of the quality or intimacy of this internal relationship that we have with our Selves. If we are disconnected from Self we are disconnected from everything else. Poor self image is an inherent manifestation of this ignorance. Our biggest challenge as human beings is knowing who or what we really are. Unless we become Self aware we are limited in manifesting our true potential. Our purpose right now is to learn this.

  13. I think Maria might be on to something. I live in a rural area in Australia, which is full of natural beauty, and mostly very nice people. i moved here from Sydney, where sometimes I would see or hear from noone for a week (or over a weekend) except for work. I also spend (fortunately for me 🙂 some time in Italy, and I really miss the getting together that people there seem to do so readily. There's always dinner or coffee or a chat with friends, and even if I WANTED to be, am very rarely left alone for too long. I have quite a few friends there (and friends of friends) who are always happy to see me, and get together when I get there. I love the way Italians / French and other European/Latin people like to share meals and friendship. I have many acquaintances / even friends here, but there is certainly something special about that Latin enjoyment of life and company and friends.
    Lisa, maybe you have time to join a club, like walking / books / music, something that interests you but isn't expensive? I know how you feel sometimes!!

  14. How wonderful, how do I get on to a tribe of 10 or can we create one!!!!
    I am

  15. Alone......AL- - -ONE. 🙂
    We are all we need to be...right now. But we forget! 🙂
    I found an easy way to 'get back'...
    Keeping my eyes open, I cup my hands over my eyes and eliminate ALL chinks of light; then I imagine the colour black. If I keep seeing other colours, I bring into mind the 'dot' above the typed letter "i" ... and zoom into the dot (it's black, of course!) after I have mastered this I may notice that my breathing has slowed and then I focus on the black again. I do this for however long my attention allows me to. When I take my hands away I realize that I have lost my sense of 'poor me' and also feel superbly relaxed. I also realize that what I was doing was...NOTHING!!! It is, for me, a sacred moment that I have spent with a soothing wonderful From this relaxed state of being I have been able to re-negotiate my thoughts and therefore my choices to act. One cannot be shy, angry, bitter....even sad after treating your-self to some "black-out time" and afterwards you feel not only better about yourself - you feel gentle towards others. In South Africa some of us take this one step further: UBUNTU = you are because I am. If this is true everyone is my friend and a be-lovEd ...the act of allowing yourself to be loved. 🙂

  16. Such an interesting conversation stream.
    I have just returned to living in a metropolitan area (my home city where I grew up) after having lived in a pretty small, rural area in the mountains. I've found myself feeling more isolated here and have a few thoughts as to why.
    Life in the mountains was so action oriented. People's focus, generally, was more on doing things...hiking, walking, skiing, fishing, kayaking on rivers, even getting out and driving to look at the scenery. There is a wealth of hiking and walking trails, etc. etc. and a great interest amongst town citizens and leaders in protecting those things.
    There was also the need to keep up with weather, and collectively handle natural events (snow, ice storms, high winds, low temps, etc.) that brought people together.
    There are a university and community college there, which add a level of intellectual pursuit and interest, of cultural activities, that also brings more diversity and sense of activity.
    Also, lots of working at projects (local parades, fundraising efforts) and providing things for the school (only one high school - even those of us without kids followed it closely), to doing things for/through churches or spiritual organizations (lots of diversity in beliefs - but all active).
    People in this small town go to jobs, and they probably watched some TV, but not much it seemed. There was not a lot of conversation about it.
    There was also not a great social hierarchy between the 'haves' and 'have nots' ... very little women's conversation centered around shopping for example, or what people were wearing. A local fundraising 'fashion show' was dominated by outdoor clothing and casual wear, with the occasional 'dress up' dress. SUV's were more often purchased for utilitarian reasons, not because they 'made a statement.' There was some diversity in monies spent on homes, but I don't remember hearing a lot of conversation about it as I now hear in this city.
    In fact, whether you had money or not, many felt they were 'haves' because we all had the beauty of our home place, and the access to activities, which did not usually require large sums of money. We were generally grateful for these things and each other.
    In the city where I now live, this is not the case. The natural beauty has been covered by buildings. One can't walk without being in the midst of houses. And there is great competition to have the 'best house.' On the other hand, try to find a place in nature, and you'll end up being fearful for safety.
    There are beautiful rivers to get out and do things on, but very few do. I've tried to interest several friends and family members, especially those with kids, in a day together on the river, and have had no interest. They seem to prefer to spend their time competing on the golf course (competition they take very seriously) and the women spend time gathering or on the phone talking about each other. They spend more time in front of the TV, or sitting in the stands watching their children play assorted games (and talking about each other), or standing with drink in hand at cocktail parties. The atmosphere - both professionally and socially - is intensely competitive and hierarchical.
    In general, adult life seems less active, unless you count 'buying things' and more focussed on activities that 'separate' and foster a competitive spirit. Many of the people I'm around don't seem to be aware of any of this - having lived this way whether they moved here from another city, or grew up here. It's a weird schism .... many think they are 'protecting nature' by building living communities on it (which destroys it), not by spending active time on it.
    In general, I don't feel as much joy or satisfaction in life, though I think many others here do consider themselves to be happy. And, important to me, daily life doesn't feel as creative, innovative or spiritually connected.
    Anyway, I feel much lonelier and isolated here. Sometimes I feel like I'm going out of my mind. People in the mountain community lived with their challenges to be sure, but I sensed, and felt I was part of, a basic community, and satisfaction and appreciation for life that I miss. I think this is the source of my sense of isolation here.

  17. Wonderful stories !! I had to think a bit to come up with 8 friends whom I can cofide in and really be myself with , but I would rather have those 8 then a bunch of people that I couldn't be 'myself" with .. this has been a life long adventure in acepting myself as I am !!
    this Thanksgiving I had a wonderful adventure -- I was in vited to my sons home with the warning that my x husband was going to be there with his son and family -- this man is just going though a nasty divorce -- and the reason we split was I no longer wanted to live with a very active drinker.. I was told he had stoped drinking do to health reasons etc; so I went -- and on the drive there I reminded myself that I am LOVE -- Love flows thought me and that is my center !! It was a wonderful day !! my x kept wanting to visit with me -- he was the one that devorced me because of my "weird ways of looking into self help books " meany years it took me to find my balance because Family was soooo important to me and the feeling of lost and alone was very great ,, all my kids were raised and off on their own , when the devorce happened -- But at this Thanksgiving my step son and I visited alot and lots of hugs and re bonding ocured !! he hadn't spoke to me in 17 years !! The feeling of Family happiness was very full and I came away Very Happy of my new life and my own center of well being !! and the smiles on my own sons face seeng us all gettng along was wonderful !! he always hubg onto his step dad because it was the only dad he ever knew --
    But the main reason I am sharing this is the feeling of family whole ness was so wonderful and blessed !! A dream of a life time to be sure !

  18. All the comments were connected and now I wrestle with my feelings about community. I have always felt that loneliness was what made me different from others. Now I know it's universal and all I need to do is trust and know that we are all connected, after all it's just a feeling... a need for something outside of self, meaning the ego side. When I feel spirited, there is no loneliness. I am grateful for what I have become, "A spiritual being having a human experience." ~Namaste. Jo

  19. Thanks Lynne - what a great reminder. i was talking with an old friend yesterday with whom i'd lost touch - we hadn't spoken in almost 5 years. BUT the flow between us was incredible! it was as if we'd just spoken the day before!...both of us had 'evolved' in the same direction with similar observations, concerns, interests and awarenesses on the expanding landscape of conscious connection and heart based action. Ideas about more conscious choices, family and global vision within a local context. A beautiful confirmation and validation that everyone we've touched and touch is part of our extended family of 'expanded self' and that we are truly one - moving and evolving together regardless of time or proximity.

  20. Hi Folks,
    Not much to add that has not already been said.
    Human beings are social creatures. We thrive best in supportive family units. I think the word supportive is very important here, because once we leave our family unit, we find ourselves pretty much alone in the world.
    How many people live in the same town they were born in? How many people live close to their family?
    I live in France where family is everything. There is a traditional two hour lunch break, where families can come together to eat. How many countries in the West still allow two hour lunch breaks? - I would guess not many. Not only do they embrace the family mid-day meal but every part of family life is considered sacred for most.
    In this part of France wages are low, so people often belong to a co-operative, where they share their goods.
    My neighbor for instance grows potatoes which she shares with others. Also the local dairy farmer uses her large garden to graze his cows once in a while, this saves her from having her grass mowed. In all sorts of way people come together here to share, sometimes out of necessity and others, because that's the way things are done and have always been done.
    At the other end of the scale, I am British and feel isolated at times due language and a culture which is hard to join. Not that they are unfriendly but we are different. My daughter lives in UK and is often too busy to visit. She, like most people, is just holding on to her well-paying I.T. job, due to the downturn of the global markets.
    10 friends - hmmmm. I probably have 10 friends but they are all over the planet.
    best wishes

  21. This is a wonderful conversation! So many thoughtful observations...and so poignantly expressed. Human beings are wired to be sociable. We need a community around us, whether we're living in a large city or in a remote rural area.
    I live in a big city noted for its neighbourhoods. My micro-neighbourhood is an enclave of new townhomes in the centre of the city. When I first moved in, every time I ran into someone new on the street, I took a chance and said hello (not always easy in the city as you might imagine). It turned out that most of the people who live on my street wanted to connect, with the result that we have organized a couple of street parties.
    Overcoming our suspicion that others may want to harm us can be difficult, especially when media bombards us with messages of fear. The trouble is, we miss so many opportunities to create community as a result. Intuition can be your best friend in such circumstances.
    I have evolved a philosophy over time about friendship. If I want to connect with friends, very often I have to make the first move. People are so busy they often put off calling or making plans and then it simply becomes embarrassing so they stop. Holding onto friends takes effort in our mobile world. Fortunately we have internet!

  22. As a nurse working in Perth, Western Australia I find the results of the survey in Finland fascinating but not surprising. A doctor at work asked me recently what I thought the the secret to a long and happy life was. Without really thinking I replied close family and friends. I have today just realised how true that answer is. I have been blessed with a friendly and positive nature and I realise that this is not so for everybody. I do believe we create our own lives by the way we think so if you are having trouble connecting with people try to see things in a different way, it may change your life.

  23. Wonderful article. Though I have a large circle of friends and my line of work keeps me surrounded by others, I still feel unhappy from time to time... so I am in the process of making positive changes for the new year.
    I love everything I have... and have everything I love! I believe we all do, only we forget to remind ourselves of it. My New Year plans are to remind myself daily of all I have to be grateful for and spend more time focusing on that and less time trying to figure out why I am not happy.

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