From as early as the 18thcentury, research ascertained that people mirrored smiles or frowns they saw on someone else's face. But, modern research tools have taken it to another level. From 1984-2003, Dr. Christakis plotted the social connections of 5000 people to study the spread of emotions. When he plotted the happiness or unhappiness of residents of one town over time, he found an interesting pattern. "We were able to show that as one person became happy or sad, it rippled through the network," Christakis says.For instance, Christakis' research indicated that if you start to become happier with your life, a friend living close by has a 25 percent higher chance of becoming happy themselves; a spouse experiences an 8 percent increased chance and for next-door neighbors, it's 34 percent chance of being happier. And yes, the happiness or sadness even spread to people to those not directly connected.
Let’s not forget, we live in a digital age. So those connected through online social networks show similar patterns of emotional contagion. The first to prove emotional transfer via text was a 2008 study named, “I’m sad, you’re sad”. It also determined that certain traits of the text communicate the emotion indirectly: sad participants used fewer words, agreed less with their partner, used less punctuation, and responded less quickly than happy participants.
A 2013 Facebook study, 689,000 people were subjected to emotional content in their feed. The feed was manipulated over a week with happy, sad, or neutral feed. The study showed that the recipients’ responses and further posts were likely to be similar in emotion to their feeds. The study showed that the emotional contagion could impact the recipients for several days. The implication, though not proven with this particular study, is that it effects the recipients’ offline behavior as well as their health.
Emotional contagion even impacts the work environment. Dr. Barsade study showed that a negative group member disrupted workers and reduced their efficacy, while having a positive team member increased cooperation with fewer group conflicts, and lead to heightened task performance.
Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with meditation. Here’s a few studies that along with your active choice to become more conscious could make you a positive catalyst in your world:
- This study and others show that those who meditate have higher EQs; they also show improvements in characteristics of emotional intelligence — namely, general mood, stress management, adaptability, intrapersonal awareness, and reality testing. Importantly, the measure of these improvements appeared to be dependent on how much the participants meditated. That is, those who meditated on a regular basis reported higher EQ and lower perceived stress than peers who meditated less often.
- Another interesting study from 1993 proved that meditators can impact an environment. A meditation course was planned in Washington DC to be held for 30 days. The class size began the first week with 800 participants and grew until the final week, 4000 meditators were on location. Before the class, they went to the Chief of Police and told him the by-product of this course would reduce crime in the city by over 20%. The Chief of Police said that would only happen if there were 20 inches of snow.
According to the FBI, before the course began, violent crime was on a steady increase. However, within a week of the course beginning, crime began to fall. By the last week of the course, violent crime fell by 23.3%. After the course ended, crime began to rise again. There are 53 studies showing that groups of trained meditators can prevent crime, violence and war. The size of the group only needs to be the square root of 1% of the population in order to impact an area.
It is physically impossible for any one person to do a hundred tasks at once. However, you have the responsibility to change just one person in the entire Universe! The good news and the terrible news is exactly the same -- it is up to you. You don’t even have to know exactly how your part fits into the whole. It isn’t necessary! By making an active choice to become conscious and participating in a committed practice of meditation, all you have to do is live your own part and your world will transform around you.