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Motivate Yourself 124: Emotional Contagion

Have you ever walked into a room to find that everyone’s laughing about something and so you begin to smile and maybe even laugh yourself as you enquire what’s funny?
It happens all the time, but what was it that made YOU smile and laugh? After all you didn’t know what they were laughing at!
But in that moment your mood had genuinely lifted, even if for a second or so.
You were smiling and laughing simply because someone else was smiling and laughing all because of the phenomenon of what’s called Emotional Contagion.

Emotional Contagion is the tendency for multiple people to emotionally converge. Humans have evolved to be very social creatures and with this evolutionary trait comes Empathy, the ability to experience something from someone else’s point of view.
Over many thousands of years we learn how to pick up on even the tiniest of cues from peoples facial expressions and body language, let alone words, and react accordingly. But we’ve become so good at this that it has become an unconscious ability, we can do it without even thinking about it.

Many years ago, before I became a full time therapist, I worked in an office and would greet a Monday morning with the same enthusiasm as I would a Friday afternoon. But not all my co-workers felt the same and would trudge into work grumpy and underwhelmed.
I found that my bouncy enthusiasm for life would often lift them up a bit and they would seem happier for a while, until someone else came into the room and would bring everyone back down again.

Obviously these people didn’t CHOOSE to be miserable, not consciously anyway. Not one of them set a goal that day to be grumpy and yet someone else’s grumpiness was able to rub off onto them, even though surely they wouldn’t want it to.

Theres been quite a bit of research into this over the years, both focussing on the happier, pro-social consequences of emotional contagion and well as the negative side to it showing that college students whose roommates are depressed are more likely to become depressed themselves.

So its important to be aware of emotional contagion to shield yourself from it as well as to influence others for the better rather than for the worse.

Here’s some emotional contagion at it’s best.
So, if you feel that someone else’s mood is influencing you and you feel your shoulders slump and a frown begin to form then deliberately override it!
Smile, lift your shoulders back up again and get rid of your frown.
Ultimately what would be great is to have such control over our emotions and behaviour that it actually gets hard to be miserable, negative, rude or angry.
Why not test yourself.
For 24 hours make specific effort to use positive body language, positive words.
No criticisms, no mickey taking or name calling, no gossiping about how daft someone is.
See if you can spread respect, optimism and kindness for 24 hours. You might be surprised how difficult it can be, but give it a bash.
Just for a day.

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change