Is Your Good (or Bad) Mood Contagious?

Pass it on: Happy vibes are spreadable

Photo: Three women talking over coffee

Smile more! It’s a share-worthy notion that’s not always easy, but how you’re feeling and acting has an impact on the people around you. Have you had a day when you’re feeling down, but the presence of a cheerful friend perks you up? That “mood contagion” is both an unconscious and conscious sharing of emotions that goes to both the positive and negative. 
 
“Good vibes are definitely contagious,” says Stefanie Johnson, PhD, assistant professor of management at the Business School at the University of Colorado Denver and specialist on the role of mood in workplace performance. “We can ‘catch’ the moods of those around us just by interacting with them,” Johnson says. 
 
Mood contagion has been linked to the spread of beneficial ideas and behaviors. Plus, Johnson’s research has found that people with a positive outlook tend to excel as leaders, feel more motivated, and have stronger social connections. 

7 Ways to Spread “Happy”
Feel negativity coming on? Adjust your ‘tude with these ideas from Johnson:

1. Zone in on joy and excitement. They’re especially contagious, she says. “On the flip side, negative moods (like anger and sadness) can be really contagious because they tend to be more intense and rare than positive moods.”

2. Follow the 3:1 ratio. Using the 3:1 ratio may help positivity outweigh the negative in your life. “Think of, comment on, or share at least three positive comments for every negative one.”

3. Muster a smile. A smile is an instant pick-me-up whether it’s your own or someone else’s. Smiling tells your brain that you’re happy, causing actual happiness. When you’re bummed, you can achieve the same psychological effect by “forcing” yourself to smile.

4. Establish a solid network. “Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good.” Social support improves your mood and emotions, but a “Negative Nancy” can really drag you down. Keep positivity flowing by sifting through your inner circle. Some relationships might need rethinking.

5. Call someone out. “If [someone wants] to focus on the negative, feel free to call them out on that.” Someone else’s negative mood is a bit like secondhand smoke, it’s bad for both of you.

6. Ask specific questions. Ask others to share a positive experience with you. Instead of asking “How was your day?” ask, “What was your favorite moment today?”

7. Accentuate the positive. “At the end of each day (or any given situation) try to think of the things that went really well and the things for which you are grateful.” Express gratitude to others, and focus on positive areas of your life.
 
The Bottom Line
We can’t always maintain a good mood. But it’s important to remember that how you’re feeling affects those around you. “Of course, even if you are in a bad mood, you can do things that will improve your mood like interacting with friends, doing your favorite activity, or just smiling like a fool to make yourself feel better,” Johnson says.