It is cold and flu season. In fact, I am getting over a cold right now. But, I have a different kind of infection to talk about than the ones perpetrated by microbes. I want you to be aware that you can be infectious in a positive way.
The PBS program Nova presented information about the effect others' moods and attitudes have on us. Others we know can have dramatic effects on such things as weight loss, how we feel about ourselves, and whether we take on a host of healthy habits. But, researchers have discovered something even more startling than that almost common sense idea. They found that even friends of friends or other relationships that are two or three times removed from us can ding us with an affect. There are strong indications that we reflect more attributes of those in our social networks than any one realizes. You can see the whole Nova info at this link.
So take that idea of you likely plugging in values, attitudes, health habits, etc. into the social networks with people you are directly and indirectly associated. Your social interactions, and the identities that you pick up from those interactions are shaping you, and you are shaping others. Oddly, like bad news we can think of many bad examples where we suspect this is true. For example, skinheads and neo-nazis collect together in social networks and share particular understandings of how society works and how they change the world, and I'm troubled by that! But, what is true of the negative is also true of the positive. We can be encouragers and upbeat and looking for the good in others. The research implies that either the social networks we are in will respond by becoming more positive, and/or that we'll gravitate into social networks that have those attitudes. These positive attitudes spin in directions that make us all healthier.
One of my favorite living saints who inform much of my own internal processing and self-help is Thich Nhat Hanh. Two of his posts the past couple weeks have meant a lot to me as I think about how to implement a positive course correction into my social fabric. The first one is basically that I am the happiness of this moment. Until I read this, I had carried the belief that happiness was more like a bird that came into my life (or not) by some willy-nilly luck of the stars or something. Happiness was some external energy that did it's thing to me. But daily now, I pause to assess my mood (with the help of the Emojiary ap) and I have to remind myself that I might be the only happiness that someone will receive, AND that someone is fairly often me!
This fits as corollary with the second post: "A true friend is someone who can offer peace and happiness. If you're a true friend to yourself, you need to be able to offer yourself true peace and true happiness." When we treat ourselves as friend, as we'd like to be treated, and when we want good healthy things for ourselves first, then we radiate back that positive regard to others. The ripple effect throughout the social webs we are part of changes the webs!
So what are your New Year's resolutions for 2015, or as I prefer, what Rule of Life do you want to write for yourself to live by in 2015? Let's all consciously put into that resolve that we will work on adopting and incorporating happiness and peace into who we are and sharing with others all that those attitudes bring us.