The Happiness Connection  

Emotion can be more contagious than a virus

More contagious than a virus

COVID-19 is contagious. It’s easily passed from one person to the next. But did you realize you’re surrounded by something even more contagious than a virus?

I’m referring to emotions. How one person feels can go viral in a room until it infects everyone. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the emotion that’s being spread.

If you walk into a room full of laughing, smiling people, you will very quickly feel happier. If your companions are constantly bemoaning the state of the world and the pandemic restrictions, your mood is going to dip.

This process is known as emotional contagion. Some experts believe your emotions are more easily passed to others than the germs of a virus.

Emotional contagion happens because humans have a natural desire to mimic the body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions of the people they interact with. You will have done this from birth.

How do you get a baby to smile? You smile at them. What do you do when someone smiles at you? You’re likely to smile back. I’ve written before about smiling being a superpower. Research shows that it makes you feel better, even if the smile is fake.

You can start a reinforcing loop simply by putting a grin on your face. Doing this makes you feel better, which in turn causes you to smile. This action boosts your mood further and encourages you to smile even more. Try it the next time you feel sad, irritated or frustrated. You’ll be amazed at the result.

Mimicking the behaviour of others is the way social animals like humans survive. It’s important for us to work cooperatively. Copying the behaviours of the rest of the group, helps us do this.

As I explained with smiling, mimicking a facial expression or body pose triggers a reaction in your brain that causes you to feel particular emotions. That’s why the superhero pose is such a powerful way to boost your feelings of confidence.

To help from spreading covid, most people are being more conscious of their physical hygiene like washing their hands regularly. If you don’t want to be at the mercy of other people’s feelings, it’s equally important to practice good emotional hygiene.

The first step is to be aware of what’s happening. Start taking more notice of how you feel and how you respond in certain situations. You can easily be infected by the emotions of coworkers, the news channel, or family and friends. Feelings are more contagious in face-to-face interactions, but they can still be transmitted by email, phone and social media.

It’s also important to recognize that negative emotions are more easily transmitted than positive ones. This makes sense if you think about the number one drive for humans being our need to survive.

Positive emotions are important for forming connections, being creative, and procreating, but that doesn’t matter much if you’ve ignored warnings of impending danger.

Staying alive outweighs everything else, and that’s what your negative emotions are designed to help you do.

Suggesting that you avoid anything or anybody that makes you feel unhappy is unrealistic. Instead, cut down on the time you spend engaging with people who are transmitting negative emotions or who love to “catastrophize.”

Try to inject positivity into the world. That doesn’t mean you should hide your head in the sand and pretend the world is perfect. Instead, focus on what’s going well rather than all the things that aren’t working.

Don’t wait until you’ve been infected by other people’s negative emotions to figure out ways to fight back. Have strategies to help you feel calm already in place. Meditation, exercise, and mindfulness are all good ways to accomplish this. Partner these strategies with a list of mood boosting activities.

High quality positive connections, volunteering, expressing gratitude and committing random acts of kindness have all been proven to make you feel better.

I also recommend setting an intention every morning to have a day filled with positivity and enjoyment. This will trigger your brain to pay more attention to anything it believes will achieve that goal.

Understanding how emotional contagion works can help you recognize what’s happening when you’re under attack.

Once you’re aware of the situation, you can employ strategies to help you cope and live a happier life, regardless of what’s going on around you.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She 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 websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

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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