When You Hang Out With Happy People, You Tend to Feel Happier
Choose your company wisely
Charles Dickens once said, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Modern research suggests that our emotions influence those around us. Happy begets happy, sad begets sad. Your happy or sad mood is contagious.
If you are around someone who’s in a bad mood long enough, you will feel the same way soon enough. But, if you take a calm approach to other people’s stress, you’ll help them, and yourself.
Just being around positive people helps you feel the same emotion. And you tend to have more energy and feel motivated, inspired, and less stressed. A study by James H. Fowler and Nicholas A. Christakis showed that when a friend becomes happy, it increases your own chances of happiness by 25 percent.
People who feel intense emotions like depression and anxiety tend to choose activities that perpetuate their moods.
“People seek to confirm whatever view they hold of themselves, even if, for the moment, it is a negative one,” said Dr. Gordon Bower, a psychologist at Stanford University, who is a leader in the research on moods. “In general, you seek out people who are in the same mood you are in.”
Emotional contagion (EC) is the idea that we really can and do “catch” emotions from the people around us, according to psychologists. EC is believed to be the foundation for empathy and social functioning in humans.
Experts have discovered that people have a natural tendency to mimic the facial expressions, postures, other behaviors, and habits of others during face-to-face interaction.
The extent of emotional synchrony depends on the level of intimacy in the relationship between two people, according to studies. For example, in relationships, when you are talking to an agitated partner, you may unexpectedly become irritable.
Some people have a natural ability to transmit happy and sad moods while others are more susceptible to contagion. According to research, moods seem to perpetuate themselves by leading a person to do things that reinforce the feeling, no matter how unpleasant it may be.
And the transmission of moods can occur instantaneously and unconsciously. You probably don’t realize it when you are passing on your emotions. “Emotional contagion happens within milliseconds, so quick you can’t control it, and so subtly that you’re not really aware it’s going on,” said Dr. Elaine Hatfield, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii.
Emotional contagion relies a lot on attention
The contagious nature of emotions can become amplified when you are in frequent contact with people of different emotional expressions, and give them most of your attention. “..if you’re hanging around people who are chronically annoyed and frustrated, your ability to get back to a more stable mood is handicapped — even if you originally weren’t annoyed and frustrated yourself,” said David DiSalvo.
The good news is, the most contagious emotions may be calmness, or serenity according to research. You can try to talk calmly and smile gently, and maybe you’ll change their mood.
Emotional contagion can also spread through our digital interactions. If you are in a positive mood and you WhatsApp your partner, he or she is likely to sense your emotion and mirror it, according to a study, called “I’m Sad You’re Sad.”
In another study, even what you read in a chat or social newsfeed can determine the emotions you express. A study of nearly 700,000 Facebook users confirmed this. “We found that when good things were happening in your news feed — to your friends and your family — you also tended to write more positively and less negatively,” said Jeff Hancock, a communications researcher at Stanford University and the author of two studies on digital interactions.
Viewing more negative posts in your social newsfeed can prompt you to write more sad or angry things.
“There’s lots of scientific evidence that when you are kind or express gratitude you get all kinds of psychological benefits,” says Hancock. You can easily overcome negative EC by paying attention to your feelings in any environment, especially if you want to help others in a bad mood.
If you go to work in a good mood, and find yourself tense and stressed within a short while, that should serve as a strong signal that your work environment is spreading bad energy that will most likely hinder productivity.
In a report written for “Psychology Today,” Dr. Sigal Barsade described how influential the moods of employees can be in the workplace.
“One employee’s anxiety and panic can spread like a virus through an entire office, lowering morale and productivity. Happiness can also build in a workplace, which results in improved employee cooperation, satisfaction, and performance,” wrote Dr. Judith Orloff, author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide.”
If your mood shifts around different people, be mindful of the cues and respond accordingly to stay positive at all times.
The ability to synchronize positive moods with another person is crucial to smooth interaction and healthy relationships. “If you’re poor at both sending and receiving moods, you’ll be likely to have problems in your relationships,” said Dr. John Cacciopo, a psychologist at Ohio State University.
If you want to catch others’ good moods, rather than their bad moods, be careful of the company you keep and acknowledge when you’re picking up on the negative or positive emotions of others, and create change if needed. Emotional contagion is a skill you can work on to improve your relationships at work and at home.