Mood is Catching.
Ever notice that some people can cheer you up while some others just drag you down?
I coach my clients on the importance of being conscious of the people they spend time with and the impact of that contact. While we want to support friends in times of need, it is also important that exposure to negative energy not become the norm.
I know that we tend to be strongly affected by the emotional states and world views of those around us, but I have discovered another element for explaining why this happens.
In the vast universe of neurons that make up the brain, there are a particular group known as Mirror Neurons. These are the brain cells that enable us to imitate and learn from others. They also create the capacity to bond with those around us.
Evolutionarily speaking, it was important to be able to identify members of our own group. In being able to identify who was friend and who was foe, people were able to create safety while avoiding danger. This capacity for inclusion and exclusion, who is my tribe and who is not, is still a determining factor for much of our behaviour. At its best, this fosters caring communities and, at its worst, explains how people, who value their own families and friends, can deal out abuse or even death to peoples whom they consider outsiders.
In order to develop a sense of connection, of kinship with others, our Mirror Neurons facilitate empathy with those others. The capacity for empathy grows out of being attuned and highly sensitive to what others are thinking and feeling. Hence, we are wired neurologically to pick up the mood and the energy of those around us.
This potential for sensitivity towards others can result in a sort of emotional/energy love-in while in the company of those people who exude good feelings and mood. The company of such people leave us “in the zone” or in “flow”. When spending time with very negative people, those “energy vampires” can deplete our good feelings, creativity and potential.
It is, then, part of good self-care, emotionally, professionally, and physically to become more conscious of how we are affected by the energy of others.