Spreading Good Cheer is a Lot Easier Than You Might Think
> 5/31/2006 2:55:30 PM

Many times a well placed joke is enough to break through a bad day and make us smile. But as a story from the health section of yesterday's Washington Post points out, making someone smile really takes much less than that.

In her story, That Look--It's Catching, writer Stacey Collino examines much of the new research that has gone into mood transmission. Much in the way that we can unintentionally pass germs to one another, researchers have shown that emotions can be transmitted, often without either party being any the wiser. Humans instinctively mimic and attempt to synchronize with people with whom they are conversing. Your own muscles can react and respond without your knowledge, a process which in turn sends more messages to your brain. This creates a loop where, upon seeing a smile, you begin to smile, a movement that in turn lifts your spirits and begets more smiling. Unfortunately the same can also be said for gloomy emotions, which gives new meaning to the euphemism "negative energy."

Sight though, is not the only way an emotion can spread. The tone of spoken words during a conversation can effect the moods of those involved. Your mother probably always told you, "Don't use the word 'hate,'" and as Collino uses it to make her point, your mother might just have been right. Negative words especially can effect our moods.

Understanding how emotions spread can have very important applications throughout the everyday. As Collino mentions, a boss's mood, whether negative or positive, can drastically effect the emotions of her employees. An unhappy boss can create more stress and an unproductive working environment, while a happy one can drive a team to greater success. Relationships with friends and romantic partners are also points of important emotional interaction. Studies have shown that depression and depressive symptoms can often be shared by married couples and even college roommates.

By understanding that others' emotions can drastically affect us, and being aware of how that process takes place, we can be better prepared for the stresses that life throws our way. Take time to notice others emotions, and notice also how they are effecting you. Great leaders are often those who can most ably effect change in those around them, and emotion can be a powerful tool to that end. Likewise, being able to read someone else's emotions and empathize can only help strengthen your interpersonal relationships.

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