According to Research (and Experience)... a Resounding YES!
Ever notice that some people are easier to be around and more enjoyable to hang out with than other people? It isn’t necessarily the things they say or don’t say or the number of times they make us laugh. Actually it all comes down to this: How do they make us feel? How do we feel about life and ourselves when we’re around them?
Scientists from Harvard Medical School and University of California at San Diego tell us that happiness is, indeed, contagious. What’s more, we can actually “catch” other people’s moods. Their study of more than 5,000 people over a 20 year period found that people are more likely to be happy when the people they spend the most time with are positive and upbeat.
Grumble guts, Eeyores, and Negative Nellys do nothing but pull our moods down to their level. Whether you encounter them online or in person, you’ll find yourself wanting nothing more than to avoid their presence at all costs. They make you feel down, angry, sad, discouraged, tense….
The reason? Mirror Neurons. Mirror neurons are nerve cells in the brain that make us automatically adopt the mood of those around us. The funny thing is, you can even “pick up on” someone’s negative vibes online! Although I can’t prove it, I personally think some people are more susceptible to these effects than others. For instance, I’m highly, highly, highly susceptible to mirror neurons and their mojo, for better or worse. If, for example, I come across someone in a comment’s section of a blog who is obviously just trying to pick a fight or be difficult and argumentative – I can literally feel my neck muscles tensing. Their negative energy seems to jump right out at me.
On the other end of the spectrum, when I come across people with positive energy, upbeat attitudes, and great vibes – a smile appears on my face without me even telling it to.
You may or may not feel the effects as strongly or as easily as I do, but make no mistake about it – you feel them. And if that isn’t reason enough to choose who you hang out with carefully, nothing is.
Here’s the thing. Ultimately, we can’t make everyone around us play nice and, quite frankly, blowing sunshine up their keester amuses us far more than it does them. We can, however, choose how we react to people and their moods. If there are people in your life who seem to get you down, frustrate you, or on a consistent basis bring about negative feelings – recognize it and do something about it. Maybe you can’t avoid these people – heck, maybe you don’t even want to. That’s cool. Just be on guard against the effect they have on you. Often, just realizing the tendency can help you keep it from happening.
Try to lift their spirits when you can – make them laugh, help them recall happy memories, smile warmly and smile often. Approach the time you spend with them determined to have the stronger “mood germs” and make them catch YOUR good mood rather than the other way around!
Give them an ear, give them a shoulder. But don’t give them the power to affect your day.