It is time to redirect social contagion

To all the those who habit this planet:

Until recently, we were living every day, confident that nothing could upset the trajectory of our lives. Today we sit at home. Some of us separated from our loved ones, others from friends. Very few are ever ready for a drastic change to happen, let alone anticipate it. Just at this time, when it seemed nothing was stopping, not humans; science; technology;  businesses, the world delivered a surprise, stopping everything.

This is why this article is for all of us, no matter where we are, or the language we speak we are all going through a global change that forced us to uncover our eyes to this new reality.

Social/behavioral contagion is present every day of our lives. Perhaps we do not realize the pressure and anxiety it puts on us. However, If there was ever a time to harness the positive potential within social contagion, now is it.

How not to feel fear and despair ?

As beings, our emotions and feelings are extremely influenced by others. People change people. Our actions are influenced by our surroundings and that includes the people around us. Susan David, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, co-founder, and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, wrote an article titled; “Fear is contagious. Here’s a simple way to protect yourself against it.” She surmises that the solution lies in the question ;“Even in the midst of this chaos, who do I want to be?”

Remaining calm or going against the current seems impossible, but it is possible to avoid social contagion. We are unique, we are more than our habits or fears. Fortunately we are beings full of reasoning, feelings, intentions, and dreams. It is easy to get lost in this enormous world, nevertheless we must remember who we are and what is moving us.

Getting unpleasant feelings is as easy as catching a cold. Our survival instinct is always on high alert, to guard us from negative emotions. There is no manual to avoid social contagion. Saying we have to be aware and careful with the people who surround us is difficult, but it helps. Being aware of our surroundings could bring us to a completely different mood in every situation, and this is why we have to redirect the social contagion.

We are forced to redirect negative social contagion into something positive.

Being surrounded or having contact with optimistic people can cheer you up in a crucial moment in your life. It is clear being positive is extremely hard, but getting more positive vibes and connecting with ourselves is an important step when it comes to preventing social contagion.

Mindfulness helps us to connect and makes us conscious about what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. I do know how hard it is to meditate. To the uninitiated it may seem easy. However it requires a lot from us, and after we can actually do it, it takes, even more, to become a habit. As a result of practicing meditation we learn how to more be focused and calm even in moments of panic. We can go from panic buying selfishly to being more considerate to those in greater need. We can go from spreading panic to spreading kindness. People change people.

Catching it early

The Doctor Jud Brewer explained how he had to deal with his students in moments of negative social contagion. When news broke of the closure of learning institutes, he anticipated an outburst of anxiety amongst his students. Therefore he decided to calm them before allowing them to read all the news, so they tried “Loving-kindness meditation.” This method of meditation focuses on self-compassion which increases focus and attention into a deep sense of emotional strength that balances our thoughts and actions.

Being present and aware, living in the now, with our body and mind is the most significant thing in life. Living in the past keeps us in a nostalgic mood and living in the future increases the vector of uncertainty and anxiety. Remembering our routine tasks can help us to avoid this uncertainty and be focused and productive. Decreasing anxiety and causing the contrary effect causes more joy. 

These months have been dreary for many of us. A struggle with no inkling as to when the end will come, the new normal found. The fight is not yet over. Even if we find ourselves in a rut, or the dark hole of depression, we must drag ourselves out of it. Not just for ourselves, but for all those front line workers who are putting themselves at risk daily. They, who walk with death daily, more than any of us need some positive social contagion and not to be dragged down by us, who sit in comfort at home.

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