eeyore and friends

Emotional Contagion & the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, Christmas everywhere, and a plethora of holidays around the world, no doubt idyllic Norman Rockwell images pop into mind. Or maybe Norman has been replaced by the formulaic sentimentality of the Hallmark holiday movie industry. Either way, we are transported to visions of sugar plums, loving connection, and unconditional support wrapped up in a perfectly tied silk bow and served alongside steaming hot chocolate with two heart-shaped marshmallows.

And then we go home to our families.

Now don’t get all huffy my family of origin, I am referring to the Royal We family. Not any of you specifically.

When people get together, even people who love and care for each other, things are not always perfect. The reality of our lives is that we are all human and imperfect. We have bad moods. We have differing opinions. We have expectations which are hard to live up to. And it is gosh darn hard to maintain a joyful attitude all the time, especially if we have someone experiencing a Scrooge moment around us.

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But it is important that we try. I recently read an article which explores Emotional Contagion. Emotional Contagion is basically how, like we can catch a cold from those around us, we can also catch others’ emotions. Because humans mirror and mimic each other, one person’s bad mood can ruin the mood of everyone around them, and then everyone around those people.

What can be done?

First, don’t be “that guy.” Be aware of your own emotional state. What are you experiencing that you might unconsciously transmit to others? Clean up any Negative Nelly thinking before you hit the party circuit or share anything on social media. It may feel good to scream out the negativity, but if you knew it would not release you from your bad mood but instead spread the crud to others, would you still do it?

Next, watch out for “that guy.” It may be an Eeyore at work, crotchety Uncle Bill, or your best friend on a bad day. Doesn’t matter who it is. What is important is to keep your eyes open for someone who might be spreading holiday anti-cheer.

Once you have identified the ground zero of negativity you have two choices. First, try to help the poor soul. Usually the person experiencing a bad mood is not enjoying being grumpy any more than you enjoy being around them when they are grumpy. Empathize, distract, encourage, instill gratitude. Look to your toolbox of things that make you happy and see if any of them can break your friend out of their mood. Second, run away. If someone is in a funk and you are not able to help them escape it, get yourself a safe distance away so you don’t catch – and spread – what they are exuding.

During the holidays, and every day, decide if you want to spread cheer or negativity. Acknowledge your ability to make this a happier, better world by controlling your emotions and if/how you take on the emotions of others.

Emotions and Health

In my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop Doing Life and Start Living It, I share how I found relief to chronic physical issues, by uncovering and rectifying mental and emotional issues. In my early 30’s, I experienced various physical issues from constant pain and tension to low immune functions and digestion issues. I thought I had some undiagnosable illness. What I discovered was the root of the illness did not occur in my body, but in my mind. It was my being in the wrong profession with the wrong goals for life that were the triggers for the physical symptoms I experienced.

During this time, I learned about Louise Hay who wrote the book, You Can Heal Your Life. I found this book to be eye-opening and the companion book, Heal Your Body A-Z, to be a go-to resource. Ms. Hay’s premise is that “What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by our thoughts and our feelings. The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.” Two notes here.

First, I do not share this to blame or shame you into thinking you are responsible for all the bad in your life. I like to look at the other side of the equation. You have the power to create what you want in your life. If you find that things are not as you desire, make a change in your thinking and your actions to encourage a better result.

Second, the only thing I believe in 100% is that I don’t believe in anything 100%. I have studied and used Ms. Hay’s work for long enough to see a correlation in what she has found and the reality that I see with myself, my family, my friends, and my clients. And that does not mean that everything is the direct result of our thoughts. It may be, but at this point I see a correlation not necessarily a tried and true law. Even so, I see enough correlation in the mind-body connection to give it credit and use it in my own life.

Photo by Luke Braswell on Unsplash

A few years back, after many years of good health, I found myself having issues again. Being human, I first looked to my diet, movement, and age to see if any were at fault. Although probable influencers, I could not see a direct reason for why I felt like I did. Next step, I looked at my life. At the time, I was in a situation which was not positive. I believe we always have three choices when we are in difficult situations: A) We can try to change the situation. B) We can accept the situation. C) We can leave. In this circumstance, I had to choose option B as I had no power to change the situation and at the time, no ability to leave. The result was my poor health.

According to Louise Hay, my physical symptoms related to fear, anger and frustration – which very well described my reaction to the situation. I chose to use the affirmations recommended in the Hay books, take care of my mind, emotions, and body – focusing on them instead of the frustrating situation, and make strategic plans to leave the situation sooner than later. My physical symptoms lessoned under this plan and were removed completely after I was out of the situation.

Have you ever noticed a correlation between your emotions and your body? Have you tried shifting your mindset to resolve physical pain? Share with us here.