You sit across from a coworker at a meeting. She has a cough and that evening as your nose begins to feel a bit sniffly you think, “I know exactly where I caught this.” But what about the negative mood that has settled on you too? Could that be from your coworker as well?
It turns out we can catch each others’ emotions much like we catch colds. Our brains are wired for empathy and how those around us feel impacts us more than we realize. Researcher Daniel Goleman says in Social Intelligence, “We are wired to connect. Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us affect the brain–and so the body–of everyone we interact with, just as they do us.”
We’re not immune to the emotions of others and that’s the way God created it to be. So that means we also need to understand…
– We give others a gift by nurturing our happiness because when we’re happy they’re more likely to be too.
– We need to be wise about who we spend time with because negative people really do affect and infect us.
Yes, we’re called to help those who are sincerely hurting. That kind of interaction leads to its own kind of reward and joy because we’re making a difference. But when we indulge in complaining, take part in gossip, or jump in on a gripe session we put the emotional (and even physical) health of ourselves and others at risk.
Let’s make intentional choices about what we expose our hearts to today.
And let’s be people who help the hearts of others be happier and healthier too.