We all know that the common cold is contagious – most of us catch at least one or more of these nasty annoyances every year. Did you know that your moods can be contagious as well? It may not seem possible, but in a subtle way we all can “catch” another persons bad mood, or good mood, depending on certain factors.

How does this happen? I’m sure you’ve been in a situation before where you’re at work, and someone comes over with something very important that they want to share with you. They seem very excited about it, and pass the good news on to you. If they are conveying to you a happy story about something or someone you also are interested in, or just a funny anecdote that you both find amusing, your mood will undoubtedly be affected at least for a few minutes. You can’t help be put in a good mood! This is an obvious way, but in a more subtle way, what if you just talk briefly with someone on the street, someone you don’t even know. You catch their expression, which seems very distressed and unhappy. Did you know you are very likely to mimic the persons expression, if only for a few milliseconds? Research shows that some people are more prone to pass on their moods due to their more frequent use of facial expressions. Others apparently are more susceptible as a recipient of this contagious effect.

According to Dr. Elaine Hatfield, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii, "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”. This is more true of very subtle emotions such as cheerfulness, melancholy or irritability, because the vast majority of emotional life, researchers have found, is in this range. Your not likely to “go ballistic” because you see someone else having a temper tantrum, luckily. But in every day life we not only pass on our moods to others, but catch certain moods from other people depending on a) the relative strength of one persons mood, compared to another person and b) the level of synchronicity that is being experienced by the two people. If one person is in a relatively depressed or sad mood, he or she will seek out another who is also in the same mood. For some reason we all seek to “validate” our moods and so it appears we feel drawn to people that share our mood at the moment. "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."

It is perhaps no surprise that people's moods affect how they see their future. On a daily basis, we aren’t aware of these subtle swings in mood. Psychologists point out that people are largely unaware that a good or bad mood is creating an optimistic or pessimistic outlook: it simply seems that the facts support one or another view. Aren’t we conscious of this? Appalling.

So how can we use this to our advantage? Ah, yes. You knew I was going to try and find a useful connection in all of this at some point, didn’t you? The lesson to be learned, if not obvious, is to stay away from depressed people! Ok, that’s probably not fair. You don’t want to seem insensitive to others feelings, so let’s just say that if you are confronted with another person that is in a decidedly bad or depressed mood, remind yourself that you are in a good mood and try not to “catch” the other persons mood. In fact it would be good if you could try your best to transfer some of your happiness to the other person, although that can many times be a difficult task!

Either way, do your best to be conscious of your moods on a daily basis. In this way you have more control over not only your mood, but also whether you are affected by the moods of others. I don’t know if some people are “carriers” or not, but if so I would want to be a carrier of good moods rather than bad. Just another of my points of happiness to strive for, I guess. And by the way, if you’re in a bad mood, keep your distance ok? Just kidding…

To your continued success and happiness!

Author's Bio: 

Doug Hart, CHO of GetPassionForLife.com

I've spent many years studying psychology, philosophy, NLP, and motivation. My particular focus is on the biggest question in life - what makes us happy? Join me and together we can discover more about what makes you happier in life.

I think it's more of a journey than a destination, and I would like to make your journey much more exhilarating, passionate, loving, and unforgettable! Take the time to visit us at the happiness place and find out why you are what you think about most!