Have you ever been in line behind someone in a bad mood? You know, the person who is upset about having to wait, foot tapping impatiently, just oozing negativity. Think about how it makes you feel to stand near them, as you hear their muttered complaints and see the tension in their body language. Maybe you start to feel a sense of agitation yourself, now realizing that the line is moving very slowly, and you certainly have better things to do! Whatever mood you were in before encountering this person, you will leave them feeling upset. You’ve just been contaminated by their bad mood.
Yes, moods are definitely contagious. Whether it happens via energetic transfer or simply a reaction to visible cues, we are influenced by others. Even our language acknowledges this effect, as in a toxic bad mood, or an infectious laugh. Many times these effects catch us unaware, and we wonder when our day took such a downturn. The good news is that we can retake control of our mood in these situations, once we recognize that we have been affected by someone else’s negative energy. Then I like to take a few minutes to come back to myself with this practice.
Start by sitting quietly, noticing the thoughts and emotions and physical sensation in the body. Breathe and allow them to come and go, without trying to change them in any way. Then take time to reflect on the interactions you’ve had so far in your day and notice if any bring up a sense of agitation, frustration or anger. If so, allow those feelings to come up, without trying to alter anything about the experience. Now take full long breaths in and out through your nose. Picture the frustration moving out with your exhale, to be replaced by calming energy moving in with each inhale. Allow the exhale to release any tension leftover from earlier interactions, no matter how they played out, no matter who was at fault, breathe them out. Breathe in peace and contentment, reconnecting with your true self. When this feels complete, sit with the sensation of wholeness, flowing in and out with every breath.
This process works well with your regular practice of mindfulness, because it starts with awareness. Mindfulness keeps returning our attention to the present moment, to what is happening right now, so we become attuned to the changes in our bodies and minds as we go through our day. Then we are more likely to notice when a Negative Nellie or David Downer affects our outlook. We can also choose to stay present during these encounters and return a scowl with a kind smile or empathic nod. The person will either begin to settle down or find someone else to help them maintain their bad mood. That is their choice, and it doesn’t have to affect us at all.