Emotional contagion: 9 ways to strengthen your “emotional immune system”

Emotional contagion: 9 ways to strengthen your “emotional immune system”

A person's emotional state can be affected by exposure to the emotional expressions of their social contacts, which means that the mood can spread from person to person, even through our online interactions, by a process called "Emotional contagion."

“Globalization implies a greater capacity for contagion of emotions, it is a natural phenomenon that is accelerating and amplifying, because of how easy it is nowadays to communicate and connect, we have a great capacity to spread emotions, so if you can choose: Distribute positive emotions!. Elsa Punset


  • 1 How do mirror neurons work?
  • 2 Emotional contagion in your day to day
  • 3 Stress: Potentially contagious and harmful
  • 4 Social networks and viral emotional contagion
  • 5 9 Ways to strengthen your “emotional immune system”
  • 6 Conclusions

How do mirror neurons work?

Emotions are transferred, in part by an unconscious imitation that occurs through observing, scanning and recording the nonverbal language, which includes: posture, body movements, facial and even eye movements. When people synchronize certain behaviors motivated by an emotion, the "emotional contagion" happens.

Have you been to a place where people are yawning and end up yawning, even if you're not sleepy? This is because the brain is interconnected through a neural network called mirror neurons, the ones that make us possible: imitate gestures, facial expressions, emotions and feel empathy, that it helps us identify with a social group and feel integrated into that group. People with autism spectrum disorder, with schizophrenia or with antisocial personality disorder do not show such capacity for empathy, common in others, but to varying degrees.

Emotions modify your biological response and activate other brain areas, the William Doherty Emotional Contagion Scale, presents psychometric parameters for its measurement. All people have different degrees of emotional susceptibilityIn some people it would seem that many things that happen around them do not disturb them too much and other people can be greatly affected by something that would seem like a small detail, they are highly sensitive people. It has been observed that the emotional contagion varies according to the gender of the subjects, being the women more susceptible to him.

People often resemble the subjects with whom they live, not always in terms of their physical features, but in terms of their gestures, because there is a natural tendency to imitate each other, even in facial expressions, that is why we find something similar in the members of a couple and in a child, their gestures are usually more similar to those of the person who is in contact with him for a longer time, even if they do not seem physically too much.

How do you react to others?

In general, your way of reacting to different situations is sometimes a bit exaggerated or Is it usually fair? How do you show others that you disagree with any of their ideas without attacking your person? Remember that: “many will be able to forget the things you have told them, even if they have been important, they can also easily forget even the things you did for them, even if they were very significant for you… But it's harder for them to forget how you made them feel, so it is very important to take care of this aspect to promote healthy relationships ”.

The emotional contagion in your day to day

The work environment is very important, since we spend many hours a week in it and a good leader understands that The emotional well-being and health of an organization are closely related. However, not all bosses within companies have this in mind, having a authoritarian boss and that he is constantly in a bad mood can influence the work environment and even the results, because employees often find it more difficult to identify with the values ​​and objectives of the organization or as it is commonly said: "put on the shirt".

Do you show tolerance and respect towards the people who are in your life, even if they have opinions or abilities different from yours? How do you treat people with whom you are in conflict? Practice the emotional intelligence It can make better not only your interpersonal relationships or with others, but it helps you improve the intrapersonal relationship, which is the most important, because it is the one you have with yourself. Good emotion management will help you function in better ways at home, at work, with your partner, friends, at school and in the other places where you operate, giving you more opportunities and not closing doors. Within work environments and other contexts, Attitude is important, not just fitness.

Strategies to not get carried away by emotions

Don't take hurtful comments personally, those many sometimes have more to do with what the person is projecting from himself. It is true that you cannot choose the circumstances that appear in the daily life, sometimes they are very challenging, nor can you choose your partners, but yes you can modify the way you respond to this, doing it in more intelligent and adaptive ways.

When we get stressed or have an emotion such as anger, sadness or fear, our response in the blood system is modified, as well as in the access and flow of oxygen to different parts of our body, so it is highly recommended that when you experience an emotion negative try breathe long and deeply, this can be a good resource, because you don't have to withdraw from a "toxic environment" that you can't avoid. By not giving rise to negative emotions, you can make use of your cognitive processes more easily, which helps you reach more effective solutions. On the other hand, poor emotional regulation It is a serious inconvenience for the development of healthy social ties.

Stress: Potentially contagious and harmful

Many emotions and ways of responding come from theamygdala brain, which is one of the main responsible for keeping our emotional memories, especially the negative ones. Activate immediately our system of coping, avoidance of conflict, escape or escape and prepare the body for it, those answers help your protection and survival when necessary.

The limbic system may be faster than the cognitive and many human beings are automated to operate from there before many everyday stimuli. When activated, due to stressful situations, a series of substances such as epinephrine, adrenaline and cortisol, which activate the body for a possible attack, either real or perceived, in turn enables the body to give an answer. However, it can cause some cognitive skills to decrease at the moment, which is inconvenient when we need to have a business conversation or to solve a problem, for example. At the same time, Constant exposure to these biochemical changes can become harmful to health.

You can check: The Limbic System: cognitive processes and emotional regulation

The stress environment in the group can affect cortisol levels, making them higher. A study was conducted on children in basic education and Stress was directly related to learning, language and attention problems, as well as mental health problems. The stress felt by teachers is usually linked to the levels of stress students experience.

In our society, we are presented through different channels, programs and media various audiovisual content that can generate us empathic stress, is a phenomenon that must be taken into account for the care of our health, because it occurs even when we are close to a person who suffer constant stress.

Stress is a major threat to health in contemporary society. It is the cause of a series of psychological problems such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety disorders and depression, among others. Its chronicity can cause some physical illness, since stress affects an organism in general in a physiologically quantifiable way, one way to measure this is by increasing the concentrations of the stress hormone: cortisol.

Social networks and viral emotional contagion

Social networks are used as communication channels for millions of people day by day. The communication and emotions expressed in these media and can affect the emotional state of other people. Some people are more susceptible to emotional influence than others, according to the researchers.

Hyperconnectivity can make our periods of relaxation changeWell, many people instead of taking time for themselves and relaxing in other ways, now tend to take their electronic devices and try to "catch up" or watch a series or show, which causes the brain not to relax, but to remain active, and if what we visualize are unpleasant or stressful images or news, that can infect us with an emotion, which will generate physiological reactions in our body, if they are messages or news that cause us stress, cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine are started and a series of biochemical reactions occur that force the body to work harder even if your body is apparently at rest. To mention an important risk: a strong link has been found between the chronic hypercortisolemia and depression.

Veronika Engert said: “This means that even television programs that show the suffering of other people can transmit to the audience stress, since stress has a huge contagion potential. Nevertheless, elevated cortisol levels permanently they are not good, well they have a negative impact on the immune system and have long-term neurotoxic properties.”

Any person who faces the suffering and stress of another, especially if it is maintained, has a higher risk of being affected. Therefore, people who constantly work or deal with subjects suffering from chronic stress have a higher risk of potentially damaging consequences on their health, derived from the so-called: “empathic stress”.

The increase in stress due to social networks

A recent experiment conducted on Facebook raised the hypothesis that emotions extend online, even in the absence of nonverbal cues typical of in-person interactions, and that there are individuals who are more likely to adopt positive and other negative emotions, when they express themselves in their social network. Experiments of this type pose ethical problems, since they resort to content manipulation with unknown consequences for the people who participate in it.

On the other hand, Zeyao Yang and Ferrara studied the dynamics of social contagion taking randomly Twitter users for your study and only observed the response, did not use content manipulation, but created a model using algorithms to measure the emotional response of Tweets, classifying them as: positive, negative or neutral and they found that there is indeed an emotional contagion; However, there is good news: Positive emotions are easier to spread.

“What you tweet and share in the social media is important. Often, you are not only expressing yourself, you are influencing others. ” Emilio Ferrara, computer scientist and lead author of the study.

You can choose to give positive feedback when the occasion warrants and express your gratitude, this can cause more positive emotions to be generated.

9 Ways to strengthen your “emotional immune system”

Elsa Punset proposes certain strategies that help us to this:

1. Be aware of your emotions

Observe the emotions you experience during the day and Identify which of them are the most “infect” to others.

I advise you to consult: Recognize your emotions and learn to express them

2. Exaggerate good mood triggers

Try to smile, if you have no reason to smile you can search your memory for a pleasant or funny moment. Soffer and eExpressing our gratitude makes you feel better and that positive emotions are spread.

3. Consume cocoa

Have antidepressant and stimulant powers that will make you feel better, they also contain theobromine and polyphenols that give you a feeling of satisfaction. In case your doctor does not contraindicate you.

4. Do sports

This generates the production of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, among other neurotransmitters, which contribute to your good mood.

5. Go out with friends

Go with friends and people who share your same interests to perform activities you enjoy together.

6. Remove or limit what wears you out

Avoid criticism and excessive power struggleMany relationships are based on submission and domination, wanting to always try to control situations generate a lot of emotional wear.

7. Focus on what you do well

Try to focus also on the present, it will help you eliminate some anguish and anxiety for the past or the future and you can more easily focus your attention on your goals and objectives.

8. Surround yourself with positive people

Build positive social circles and free yourself as much as possible from people who constantly transmit stress and unpleasant emotions to you. How do you choose the people with whom you interact?

You can see: Traits of people who transmit positive energy

9. Think carefully before saying or writing a negative message

Avoid infecting others with that emotion that can sometimes be temporary, but it can wear relationships permanently. Practice some breathing techniques They can be of great help to learn to focus your attention and change your mental state for a more equanimous one.


Every day we are in contact with unpleasant situations and on our way there are sometimes people who constantly transmit emotions such as anger, fear and anxiety, if we are not immune enough to it or in balance and health, they "infect" us emotions and stress, so pernicious to health. You can choose! At least you can change your attention to your own breathing, use more effective strategies to manage your emotions and try to integrate with other types of people or build circles of people who convey emotions that contribute to your biopsychosocial well-being.

In many cases it is not an unexpected situation that fills you with anguish and anxiety, it may be related to some memory of a similar situation, as is the case of people who went through a trauma situation such as having been victims of violence or abuse, may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder; In these cases, psychological assistance is advisable, it is possible to learn strategies to respond differently to the stimuli that could be associated with the traumatic situation, while helping to overcome this type of conflict.

Many people have schedules that can make them suffer more. Remember that your decisions make a big difference, it is in you to choose the way you will react to the challenges that arise every day: if you choose to communicate assertively, then you foster a more collaborative and less competitive society; If you choose to see problems as opportunities, you can build creative solutions even in the midst of difficulties.

"When I model peace and harmony, everyone around me receives my influence." Virginia Satir

I leave you: 100 positive thoughts to climb and spread good mood


Other references

  • “Yawning Detection Sensitivity and Yawning Contagion” by Meingold H. M. Chan and Chia-Huei Tseng in i-Perception. Published on August 25 2017 doi: 10.1177 / 2041669517726797
    • Source: Nicola Jones - University of Warwick
    • Original Research: Full open access research for “Spreading of components of mood in adolescent social networks” by Robert W. Eyre, Thomas House, Edward M. Hill, and Frances E. Griffiths in Royal Society Open Science. Published online September 20 2017 doi: 10.1098 / rsos.170336
  • “The measurement of emotional contagion in social media” by Emilio Ferrara and Zeyao Yang in PLoS.Published the year 2015 November 6 doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0142390
    • Source: Robert Perkins - USC (University of Southern California) The research was partly funded by the National Science Foundation.
    • Original Research: Full open access research for “Measuring Emotional Contagion in Social Media” by Emilio Ferrara and Zeyao Yang in PLOS ONE. Published on November 6, 2015 doi: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0142390