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Science Report: Stress is Contagious

WELLNESS WATCH-Science has now proven that stress is contagious.  It occurs because our brains contain the ability to perform what is called Neuronal mirroring.  What this means is that when we perceive or experience something in the outside world, the parts of the brain that are being used by the object of our focus are the same parts of the brain activated in us.  

If you go watch a da  nce recital for example, there are specific parts of the brain used by the dancers. These exact same parts of your brain are also activated simply by watching and experiencing the recital. 

The same thing is true with emotions. When we observe someone that is expressing emotions, the parts of the brain being utilized by the emotional person are also activated in us. For example, when someone comes into the room with an expression of stress on their face or acting out in a stressful manner, science has now proven that the same parts of the brain activated in the stressed out individual are activated in the observer. 

What this shows us is that stress is actually contagious.  This could explain why there are times we are in a perfectly good mood and then the very first person we come into contact with causes our mood to shift and for us to feel stress or anger. If the stressed out individual is someone close to us, we feel the stress and anxiety more acutely.  

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What this shows us is that how we go out and meet the world affects everyone around us.  While there are still questions the neuroscientists are trying to answer in regards to mirror neurons, there is more and more science pointing to its legitimacy.  

There is some good news here as well.  Neuronal mirroring can work both ways. If we experience someone laughing or smiling or jumping up and down for joy, the parts of the brain they are using will also light up in our own.  

The implications of this are that we are more connected than we already thought.  Our moods and actions have a powerful and far reaching domino affect on the people in our community, and these responses are almost immediate. Our body language alone is enough to set off the same brain parts in another member of our community. 

Experiment with this neuronal mirroring.  Next time you see someone that seems unhappy or stressed out, turn on your own good mood and put a smile on your face before you greet him or her.  See if your positive mirroring can spark a smile in them and help to change their day for the better. 


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)






Vol 13 Issue 22

Pub: Mar 13, 2015