As I have mentioned in a previous post, emotions are infectious, especially when we display them clearly. There was a social expression carried out a number of years ago looking at how contagious a smile can be. A busy Railway station concourse already fitted with CCTV was used for the experiment. In this test three key people were asked to think about something very positive that makes them happy then to continue to think about this while walking around the concourse. The visitors to the station were then monitored to judge what happened to them after. As the study was not particularly scientific, it is hard to say how accurate the results were., but it was noticed that everyone who came into contact with the happy person ended up with a smile of their own.
I love the idea of this. That just by being nice to people you, you might actually improve their day and by proxy the day of everyone else they come into contact with. Of course the opposite would be just as effective. Anger and frustration can be passed on in a hundred different vindictive ways.
If you are a driver you may notice this sort of behaviour in yourself. When we are driving, for some reason some very base emotions get brought out. Imagine that you are at a junction to a busy road, waiting to get out. Finally a space turns up and you may your way into the flow of traffic. You waited ages and no one saw fit to let you out. Further down the road you see another driver in the same predicament. The emotional response of most people at that moment is “no one let me out, why should I be any different?”
I have noticed this behaviour in myself, there is a particular junction on my daily commute that can be a bit of a pain to get out of. However, without fail someone will let me out in to the flow of the traffic with a flash of lights and a gesture. (A nice gesture I must point out). You can guarantee that further down the road I would do exactly the same thing for someone else.
As I mentioned on a previous post we are a race built on community. We are social creatures and before we communicated with words we used gestures and facial expressions to get our point across. We still do it now though more and more we tend to rely on the words. As a social community creature we tend to react together, empathising with our community to let them know we understand how they are feeling. Someone showing anguish will likely be surrounded by people also showing varying degrees of sadness. They are empathising and confirming to the suffering individual that they understand the reasons for their pain.
So how can we use this knowledge? As I have said in the title, smile and the world smiles with you. A smile can be heard over a phone and why do you think you are greeted with a smile on an aircraft? A genuine smile is comforting, supportive and can even be mischievous. A smile can light up the room. Honey attracts more than vinegar.
It is very difficult when we are angry, frustrated or disappointed to get out of that refractory period associated with the emotion, as a result they tend to pass it around. If we took time to give pause, take a breath and smile; things might just improve. The physical act of smiling does actually release endorphins. Whether your smile is caused by genuine amusement or a constructed effort, the effects would be the same. Even the contemptuous smile can give its own little buzz.
Next time you find the world is working against you, and lets face it, we all have days like that, smile in the face of adversity. You will feel better for it, and thanks to our community empathy, you might get some help with those barriers that are causing the issues.