As Covid-19 cases rise again near my home town, I thought it appropriate to talk about a very real, and dangerous contagion that isn’t talked about enough, emotional contagion.
According to Wikipedia, emotional contagion is a form of social contagion involving the spontaneous spread of emotions and related behaviors. Such emotional convergence can happen from one person to another, or in a larger group.
There are many theories as to why this happens, scientific studies have shown it’s because our brains are equipped with mirror neutrons that help us to connect with others by recognizing their emotions and then mirroring them.
Our mirror neurons fire when we experience an emotion and similarly when we see others experiencing an emotion, such as happiness, fear, anger, or sadness. When we see someone being sad, for example, our mirror neurons fire and that allows us to experience the same sadness and to feel empathy. Overall, it’s very beneficial to our survival as a species. We all crave connection and those of us who are the most empathetic (aka have well functioning mirror neurons), tend to have an easier time making connections with others and are, therefore, more well-liked.
The specifics that increase our openness to catching an emotional contagion are things like feeling we have a connection with someone, being skilled at reading non-verbal clues, having a tendency to mimic people, and our awareness of and ability to read our emotional states.
The ability to pick up on others emotions can be very beneficial and women are definitely more adept than men (hello mothering instincts) BUT, and it’s a huge BUT, women are also more vulnerable to the downside of emotional contagion.
The more empathetic we are as individuals, the more likely we are to pick up the emotions that surround us and in today’s environment, what with a global pandemic, the changes to our daily lives and an uncertain future, there’s a whole lotta fear going around.
You could be in the best of moods before you leave your house and, the moment you are in the company of others, you can start to feel “off”.
In 2014, Facebook was used to study emotional contagion. After manipulating the emotional content of 700,000 users’ news feeds, the researchers found that, after being exposed to negative content, users shared less positive and more negative posts. The experiment demonstrated that personal interaction and non-verbal clues weren’t necessary for emotional contagion.
Although a controversial study because of its questionable ethics, it just shows how, depending on who you spend time with on social media, and how much mainstream media (who’s common motto is “it bleeds, it leads”) you consume, you might be unintentionally “catching” fear.
Knowledge is power so now that you know the dangers of emotional contagion, you can use it to your benefit! Because the best news is…you can catch good vibes too!!!
You can choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel happy, who make you laugh, who bring out the “feel good” emotions.
You can also choose to follow accounts that lift your spirits and choose television programs that boost your mood.
Start using those mirror neurons in your favour.
Because it’s been scientifically proven that stress lowers your immunity and decreases your overall health while feeling peace, love and joy, boosts it.
I don’t think I need to explain why that so important in today’s world.
I’m not saying that it’s possible to be happy 24/7, emotions are meant to shift and change, but in today’s environment, it’s important to be conscious because if you don’t choose more joy, you’re automatically choosing stressful emotions by default and you (and everyone you come in contact with) deserves better.
So might I suggest you take this as a little kick-in-the-butt to get your joy on and spread that shit as far as you can 💕
With love and light,