You cannot “catch” mental illness like you can catch the flu, but emotions and the flu have one thing in common. They are both contagious!
As I think about significant relationships that have been part of my life, I am drawn to those who bring out the best in me.
It feels good to be around others who are happy and positive. I feel a renewed sense of energy to support, encourage, and motivate. We can laugh together, cry together, and share in the highs and lows of life.
It does not feel so good to be around those who bring you down. It can feel emotionally draining to be constantly responding to the “fires” of drama and chaos that can result from emotional instability, recklessness, and self-sabotaging behaviors. I have intentionally created good boundaries for those whose I would consider “toxic” and add to the negativity that disrupts the flow of positivity and gratitude.
I often hear from friends, family, and clients that they are cutting out “toxic” people from their life as they are working on bettering their own mental health. One big factor is that emotions are contagious and there is a desire to be around positive energy within friendships.
Can emotions REALLY be contagious? Yes. Researchers call this emotional-contagion.
Emotional contagion occurs when one begins to mimic the emotions and expressions of those that they surround themselves with. This happens naturally, usually without conscious effort.
When my friends are celebrating important milestones or even just simple daily pleasures I share in their excitement. When they are suffering, I feel their pain. When they smile, I also find myself smiling. When I am in the company of misery, I start to feel miserable. When living with or spending considerable time with someone who is [anxious, depressed, angry, etc.] It can be hard to stay immune.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you have good friends that you seek to surround yourself with?
Are you able to laugh, have fun, and enjoy the people and things that are currently present in your life?
How are friends responding to your emotional energy?
What are your emotional expressions saying about you?
Are you spreading positivity or negativity?
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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