Why are Emotions Contagious?

Have you ever had a friend tell you a joke and their laugh made you laugh more than the joke itself? How about a time a family member or friend was stressed and you noticed you started feeling that stress as well? In both situations, we can see emotions transfer from one person to another, as if it’s contagious like a cold.

According to a Healthline article titled “EmotionalContagion: Why Emotions are Contagious”, written by author Crystal Raypole, this process is known as Emotional Contagion.


“It happens when you mimic, usually without conscious effort, the emotions and expressions of people around you.” -Raypole


These mimicked emotions can be emotions like happiness and excitement, but it also can be emotions like sadness and stress.

So why does this phenomenon happen? And what effect does it have on your emotional and mental health? Let’s dive deeper and find out.

“Monkey see, Monkey do.” You may have heard of this quote before as it reflects on how human behavior can be learned by mimicking others.A great example of this is how kids grow up with similar habits and behaviours as their parents. This mimicry typically happens through our body language, where we pick up on subtle emotional cues unconsciously.

By copying someone’s body language, we begin to experience similar emotions they felt when they expressed that emotion. This is because our brain and body associate certain body language with certain emotions. For example, when we strike a power pose like superman, we get a small surge of confidence. This is because that is the body language a person who feels confident expresses. However, this same process of body and brain connection can also apply to negative emotions.

So, what can we do to help others who are experiencing negative emotions without having them spread that emotion to us? We can try to:

Become aware of the emotional landscape

The is important because when we are aware of the emotions a loved one is experiencing, it allows us to understand what they might be going through, while also allowing us to recognize which emotions could potentially spread to us. This consciousness of the emotional landscape helps us to be more in control of what emotions affect us.

For example, if a friend is having a panic attack and you automatically react in a state of more panic (as a result of the emotional landscape) it will only make the situation worse. However, if you pause and recognize what emotions your friend is going through, you can acknowledge that in order to calm them down you need to be in a calm state first. From there, you can take deep breaths and prompt your friend to follow as well.


Spread Positivity

We know that emotions can spread from one person to another. Using this information, we can introduce positive emotions and body language to a friend or family member that may need some help dealing with negative emotions. We could do subtle things such as take them out for a walk, play some uplifting music, or make sure they have proper light exposure. The key is to help set them up in an environment that fosters positivity and their emotional well-being.



Remember, there may be times where you won’t be able to solve someone’s problems or make them feel better, which is okay. You are not responsible for anyone’s emotions and feelings but yourself. If you can’t help a loved one, you can always direct them to mental and emotional health resources that can.

Given the situation we are in now, many people are learning to cope with tough emotions. We need to be there for one another as much as we can so we don’t feel like we’re in this by ourselves. I hope this article has reminded you to be mindful of how you express your emotions and has informed you on how emotion can spread when we are trying to help out a loved one.

Written by
Aman Gurung
February 22, 2021

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