We would all benefit from frequent reminders of the enormous influence we have on those around us. Mood is a highly volatile gift, or curse, that can spread like wildfire.
Yesterday I walked into the lobby of a hotel that is serving as the headquarters for a major national youth sports competition. Athletes from all over the USA (and a few individuals from other countries) have assembled for the biggest water polo tournament in the world – USA Water Polo’s Junior Olympics. The mood is infectious. Children and adults alike are walking around with big grins on their faces, proud and happy to be here. If you walked into the hotel as a total stranger, you couldn’t help but leave here with a smile!
The diffusion of positive mood is palpable – readily evident in the voices and actions of the hundreds of young aquatic athletes downstairs in the lobby and meeting rooms, even as I write. It’s no accident that the hotel staff are friendlier than usual too. They have been infected by the organic spread of positive energy. Frankly, I’m sure that I can see taxi and bus drivers leaving the hotel with happy faces. I am convinced that their subsequent passengers will “catch” a little dose of the emotional gold leaching out of this glowing epicenter.
Mood is a temporary state of mind, not quite happiness, but related. It is well known, both by observation and scientific research that mood is contagious, spreading between individuals. What interests me most though is the internal chemistry that reinforces and escalates this emotional epidemic, because mood is also contagious within our own individual space.
The term “mood congruence” is used to describe its influence over both perception and memory. Your mood influences your perceptions of external stimuli. If you’re feeling happy, you notice other happy sights and sounds with greater intensity than sad ones. At the same time, when you’re feeling happy, you somehow recall more joyful memories than sad ones. These two phenomena tend to make mood self-reinforcing. Sadly, the same is true for negative mood, which sometimes has far-reaching negative consequences. But let’s stay focused on the positive.
As each individual becomes a radiating center of positive affect, they infect those around them. This is what I term mood diffusion.
Each of us has a choice in the role we play in society. We can choose how to effect the energy of our surroundings. We can choose to give energy or to draw it – and both will have far-reaching consequences. Choose wisely!