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The Happiness Connection  

Do your emotions go viral?

Some of you may use Facebook or another social media platform so you can keep in touch with friends and family. You don’t care about reaching an audience of thousands.

But if you are a business owner, or lover of the spotlight, you may think that the more people who see you, the better.

If you are part of the latter category, you may dream of one of your posts going viral.

If you aren’t sure what that means, think about cold and flu viruses. They have the uncanny knack of spreading rapidly from person to person. That is exactly what it means to go viral.

Information, gossip, or social media posts that go viral, spreads rapidly from person to person. Germs and social media posts aren’t the only things that can go viral. Did you realize that emotions can do the same thing?

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of having the moods of one person trigger similar emotions and behaviors in the people around them.

If you have ever worked with someone who is constantly negative and complaining, you may have seen this in action.

The atmosphere may have been optimistic, even jovial until this person appears and begins to complain. Before you know it, everyone is feeling disgruntled and dissatisfied.

This is emotional contagion in action.

Some people are more susceptible than others to catching the moods of people around them. These individuals are more likely to feel rapid shifts in emotions as they engage in different social interactions.

Research shows that both positive and negative emotions spread between people like a super-virus, but that negative feelings are usually more infectious that positive ones. Studies also show that humans react more strongly to bad things, than to good ones.

If you think about it, this makes perfect evolutionary sense.

In primitive times, finding food and avoiding predators were both vitally important skills if you wanted to survive, but one of them was more important than the other.

For the most part, the need to escape danger outweighs the need for food. You can miss a meal or two and live to tell the tale, but being caught by a predator means the end of your life. If humans were pulled toward a desire for food more strongly than they were pushed to avoid danger, we might not be here now.

The negative emotions that accompany danger need to be stronger than the positive emotions that come with eating and drinking, if we want to avoid distinction. That programming still exists in us today.

You are more likely to feel a stronger level of repulsion to something you hate, than pleasure to something you love.

It is all about survival, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about limiting the spread of negative emotions.

Your first step is to be aware that you are being affected by the feelings of others. Once you recognize that you have picked up someone else’s adverse mood, try one of the following strategies.

  • Counter the bad emotions with good ones of your own. Remember positive emotions are also contagious. Use that knowledge to your advantage.
  • For each negative statement made, try smiling broadly. Smiling is also contagious.
  • Distance yourself from the person, or people in question. This isn’t always possible, but sometimes the best course of action is being too far away from negativity to be affected by it.

Don’t always assume that someone else is the root of the negative emotions. Stop and consider whether you are the person whose bad mood is affecting others.

If this is the case, either take steps to improve your mood, or give other people some space until your negativity subsides.

The next time you are involved in emotions going viral, make sure they are the type of emotions you are proud to share. 





Be afraid, but do it anyway

My friend, Chantelle Adams, is leading a day of Courage on Aug. 28. She is encouraging people to face their fears.

Facing your fears will undoubtedly involve taking a big step out of your comfort zone, and inviting vulnerability to pay you a visit.

Perhaps I was a little early to the party, but I grabbed some courage over the August long weekend, and attended an event where I wasn’t very comfortable.

I went to my high-school reunion.

It was a huge step because none of the people I knew well back in the day could make the event. I was stepping into the unknown.

Anyone who knows me as a confident adult might find it surprising that I was extremely quiet in high school. My family moved a lot, and for many reasons I was full of insecurities.

My strategy for survival was to smile and say nothing.

If you knew me well, you would know this was just a facade, but for most of the people I graduated with, they might never have heard me speak. Why was I nervous about meeting these people again and letting them hear my voice?

Going to a school reunion can be nerve wracking for many reasons. Some common fears are:

  • No one will remember you.
  • You won’t have aged as well as everyone else.
  • You won’t have been as successful in life as other people.
  • People will think you are the same person now as you were back then, and you hope that isn’t true.

With some of these worries firmly fixed in my head, why did I choose to put myself through this ordeal?

I believe being happy is a choice, and being happy has nothing to do with your circumstances, it has everything to do with how you react to your circumstances.

By stepping out of my comfort zone, I gave myself the opportunity to choose happiness and practise some of the skills I believe in.

It was also an exercise in self-examination. It allowed me to see how I was progressing on the personal development front, especially when it comes to body image.

Have you heard about the psychology of projection? We all have thoughts, feelings, and impulses that our conscious mind doesn’t want to admit to, so it keeps them neatly tucked away in our subconscious minds. 

This causes a disconnect between our unconscious feelings and conscious beliefs.

Body image is an example of a conflict that exists between my two minds. Consciously, I believe that how you look is in no way related to the type of person you are, but my subconscious doesn’t agree.

Buried deep are feelings of insecurity and inadequacy when it comes to my current physical appearance.

I was not a chubby teenager, or young adult. I was, however, curvy. I suspect that seeing Twiggy and other similarly skeletal models during my impressionable years took a greater toll on my self-image than I ever realized consciously.

As I’ve aged and become heavier than ideal, those unconscious thoughts have bubbled to the surface.

Instead of looking at myself and thinking, “If you were thinner, you would be happier,” I have tended to look at others and attach those thoughts to them.

Weight was one of the first things I noticed whenever I met anyone. I wasn’t judging them, I just noticed. I projected thoughts and feelings about my weight onto everyone around me, thinking it was their issue, not mine.

As with any type of transformation, the first step is awareness. I have been working hard for about six months, to heal the disconnect between the conscious beliefs I have about weight and those unconscious feelings that are buried deep.

Going to my reunion was a perfect chance for me to test my progress with body image. Would I spend my time noticing who was too thin, and who could afford to lose some pounds?

I was amazed that I spent virtually no time examining what people looked like, except to marvel at how many of them seemed comfortable in their own skin. I didn’t think about my own appearance either.

Score. My hard work was paying off.

Not one person asked me what I was doing for work. They were more interested in where I lived and discussing new experiences and old memories. It didn’t seem to matter who you were as a teenager, people wanted to connect with the person I was today.

I have no idea how anyone else felt about their experience, or whether they were projecting their personal disconnect onto me. That is none of my business.

My business is being aware of how I’m progressing in my journey toward robust happiness, and to leave other people to travel their own path.

I enjoyed myself at our reunion. I took a giant step into the unknown and survived.

Don’t miss experiences because you are afraid. Be afraid, see it as a learning opportunity, and do it anyway.



Love long weekends

Being an entrepreneur, my weekends and weekdays tend to blur together, so it is a good thing I have my husband to remind me of upcoming stat holidays.

As my column is published on Sundays, by the time you read this, the August long weekend may be half, or even fully over, but don’t let that deter you from reading it to the end.

Knowing how to make the most of a long weekend, is a skill everyone should know.

Make plans

If you want to make the most of a long weekend, or short holiday, planning is the key to your success. Without a plan, you may find the time just slips by, leaving you wondering where it went.

You don’t need to plan every minute of every day, but knowing what you want to enjoy or accomplish, will provide you with some valuable structure. Keep your plan flexible, and be willing to adapt it if circumstances change.

Get ready for your return to work, before you leave the office to enjoy your long weekend. This can be challenging, but trust me, it will be worth it. Knowing you don’t have to think about getting back to the office until you get there, will make it easier to unwind and enjoy your time off to its fullest.

Plan something enjoyable for the last evening of the weekend. This will help you avoid the Sunday, or in this case Monday, night blues. Stay in the holiday spirit as long as possible, by keeping your mind off the inevitable return to work.

Research shows that looking forward to something, often boosts your feelings of well-being more than the event itself. Maximize the enjoyment of anticipation by creating a plan, well in advance.

If you didn’t read this article early enough to take advantage of its advice for this long weekend, start planning for the next one. Give yourself the gift of anticipation.

Find balance

In everything you do, look for balance. Too much socializing with too many late nights and glasses of wine may leave you feeling exhausted, and too much time spent all on your own, may create a feeling of loneliness and dissatisfaction.

Balance is the key to any successful long weekend, or mini break.

Balance:

  • How much time is planned for, and how much is left for spontaneity
  • The things you want to do, and the things you need to do
  • Passive and active activity choices
  • Social time and personal time

Even if your weekend lacks balance in one area, try to find balance in other ones.

Do something different

Habits can be extremely useful, but when it comes to making the most of a short break from work, habitual actions may not be your friend.

Change your routine. Simply by doing things differently than usual, you will cause your brain to sit up and take notice. Being more mindful of what is happening during your day, will help you enjoy it more.

Take time for a digital detox. Put your devices away and live in the moment. Enjoy face to face interaction and get back to living in the moment. This will also help you put work to one side. If you don’t receive any emails, you can’t worry about what’s in them.

If you are a local, become a tourist for the weekend. Find out where the most popular places are, and go visit them.

They say that the people who live in the same neighbourhood as Disneyland, are likely to never have been there. We often don’t enjoy the opportunities that are on our doorstep.

The aim of having time away from work is to return refreshed and recharged, not damaged, and depressed. Use these strategies to ensure your next long weekend, or mini break makes you feel revitalized.



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Discover your Zen

What do you want most for yourself and your family? If you are like most people, your answer will be – to be happy.

We all yearn for this elusive emotion. It’s elusive because we aren’t designed to be happy all the time. Our negative emotions are there to help us survive.

Whenever our minds perceive we are in a win-lose scenario, our negative emotions help to focus us on our primary goal — survival.

In primitive times, winning meant surviving and this programming is still with us.

It is hard for most people to describe clearly what they mean when they say that want to be happy. Happiness is an emotion, not a skill. You know what it feels like, but not necessarily what causes it.

I believe you can attain that happy feeling by learning to be at peace with your life.

Awareness is always the key to change, so start by carefully looking at your life.

Are you at war with your life? Don’t answer that until you have read and answered the following questions.

  • Do you get angry at little things, like when a driver cuts in front of you?
  • Do you fume when you can’t sleep because your partner is snoring too loudly, or they chew too vigorously when they eat?
  • Do feel tired and discouraged with life in general?

These are all signs that you are at war with your life.

Being in a war zone is not a great place to be if you want to experience positive emotions.

How do you eliminate these war zones from your life and find peace?

Don’t be a controller

I come from many generations of controllers. I’m not sure if it is in our DNA, or we have just copied our elders. Either way we are masters of overt and covert control.

I speak from experience when I say, controllers live in humongous war zones.

No one will ever do things exactly the way you envision, so if you try to control everything other people do, you are bound to be disappointed and frustrated. People let you down, because they aren’t just like you. They do things differently and have their own opinions.

The other big problem controllers encounter, is believing that everything is within their control.

I don’t care who you are, the chances of you controlling the weather is slim to none, and yet many people melt into anger, frustration, and despair when it rains on their big outside party.

Learn to recognize the things you can’t control and let them go. Be at peace with them.

Remember that other people’s journeys have nothing to do with you

We are all on our own journey through life. Even your partner and children are taking their own trek. Don’t try to control someone else. Share your wisdom and viewpoints, but leave the decision making for their life up to them.

Parents find this particularly difficult, but if your children don’t learn to be responsible for their own lives, how will they manage if you are no longer there to make the decisions.

All parents want their children to be happy, and regardless of what you believe, that won’t happen if you are navigating their lives for them. They are not mini versions of you. They are individuals, with visions of their own.

Learn to recognize the things you shouldn’t try to control. Be at peace with this knowledge.

Trust

Trust is the key to being at peace with your life.

Trust that you will find a way to deal with everything that life throws at you. Learn to listen to your intuition, and believe in your abilities.

Trust that your loved ones are learning from their own paths, and will learn more by being in control of their decisions and accepting responsibility.

If you encourage your children to make their own decisions when they are young, it will be easier for them to trust themselves as they get older.

Trust that what happens in your life happens for you, not to you. There is always a lesson, or opportunity to grow in every circumstance you encounter, both the good and the bad.

If you really want to be happy, discover your Zen and be at peace with your life. 



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an educator, speaker and author who specializes in positive psychology and success. She has been teaching children and adults for over three decades and is a passionate lifelong learner. 

Currently, Reen is helping schools create cultures that foster mental well-being, growth mindsets and robust happiness. She encourages teachers and parents to model this behaviour for their students and children. This is also a good strategy for business and community leaders.

Reen offers presentations and workshops that are a blend of research-based expertise, storytelling, humour and practical strategies.

Reen is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her website at www.ReenRose.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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