Our mood is one of the biggest factors that can influence how we think, feel plus also how our body and nervous system respond. The thoughts we have and the way we respond to things are one of the most important things to look at if we are not feeling in the best place. For any of us that have been working on improving our mood, we have often spend lots of time looking at how we feel. Our personal responsibility for our thought and actions is of course super important, as I am sure we are all quite aware of this, but what if one of the main pulls on our mood and how we are feeling is coming from somewhere else? Our minds are amazing and are always checking, looking, listening and monitoring things even if we didn’t realise that we were. This part of us is like our early lookout system and this is how our mind informs our nervous system and bodily functions. It is also how our minds look to protect us if say for example we are around people getting angry then this can cause us to feel one or even all of the flight, fight and freeze responses. As this is the way our minds look to keep us safe if things are looking like we could get involved in anything that could hurt us our response system switches on in a millisecond. This is no exaggeration; we all may have experienced this at some time or another, but maybe just not taken the time to consider it. Maybe you are walking down a staircase you don’t know that well or stepping down a curb you haven’t been down before and the step is much deeper and bigger than we mentally expected it to be. In this millisecond our body goes into overdrive and the response is often that instant fear, our stomach can drop and we can feel a whole array of other feelings. These can be heart racing, shortness of breath, our body tenses, our blood pressure increases and we also feel a lump in our throats. Because, in that millisecond our mind thought, OMG there’s no step and we have just stepped off a cliff. Again, this is no exaggeration our primaeval mind which has made us the most overpopulated species on the planet is often set up on this possible disaster, impending doom response. This is, of course, essential if it is a cliff, we have just stepped off of but this isn’t it’s just an extra two or three inches maximum. When we look at it in these terms it’s quite unbelievable to think that just in that millisecond our minds, body’s and the nervous system did all of this for us. Now you can see how reactive and responsive to our environment we truly are let’s have a look at how less life-threatening emotions could be negatively impacting us.
We can learn a lot about a person by paying close attention to the person’s emotional reactions, from things like facial expressions, gestures, voice tone, rate of speech—all of these cues help us figure out how a person is feeling. This is how as a baby we judge things as we don’t have the ability yet to know what people are saying it all goes down to how people are feeling and reacting. Is he or she angry? Happy? Fearful? Sad? Nervous? Afraid? We can often see these things in people without even a word being said. Just like the step analogy, this won’t be just how the other person is feeling, this will be having an instant effect on us too. For many of us, we’re busy focusing on the emotional states of others, we usually don’t pay much attention to something equally, if not more important—our emotional reactions to these social encounters. You might be thinking why is this so important? Because emotions are highly contagious, and if you catch a bad bug, the consequences can be life-threatening. For centuries, researchers have studied the tendency for people to unconsciously and automatically mimic the emotional expressions of others, and in lots of cases, people can feel the same feelings simply by exposure to emotions in social interactions. Studies have found that the imitation of a frown or a laugh or a smile or other kinds of emotional expression trigger reactions in our brains that cause us to interpret those expressions as our feelings.
In a basic form, we are actually as a species innately vulnerable to “catching” other people’s emotions. In the literature, this process in which a person or a group influences the emotions and affective behaviour of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotions is referred to as emotional contagion. In study after study, it has been demonstrated just how powerfully this can impact us and how this can infect all of our relationships, family, friends, work relationships and in fact groups of all kinds. I think in times, like we’re going through, that it is time that we wake up to these things and become fully aware of how much our own emotions are influenced by the emotional states of others. Over the next few blogs, we will be looking at this in more detail and looking at ways to help us enhance those positive feelings and dispel the negative ones.
The most important question is, in what direction are your emotions being influenced? If the feeling is, for example, fear then drawing these in are just going to make us feel anxious and fearful which is something, we don’t want to hold onto we want to dispel it from us. But on the flip side of the coin, if the mood around us is being filled with happiness and laughter this is amazing especially if we are feeling low, we need to draw this in and expand this within us and find how we then move forward keeping these feelings in our lives.
So today, if your mood is low, don’t stick with it go and watch a comedy or set a joke challenge to play with your family and friends, try it out and see how you feel you might be pleasantly surprised how much better you feel after a good old laugh.
See you all next week. Thanks for dropping by Sara x