Laughing in the Face of Adversity: How Our Emotions Impact Those around Us

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Two weeks ago a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video from a short French movie in which a gentleman boards a subway where everyone is silently absorbed in their own world. Suddenly the gentleman begins laughing uncontrollably. This causes the lady next to him to begin laughing and within a few short minutes the whole train is filled with people laughing. Not one word was uttered--all you hear are the sounds of people laughing. I even found myself giggling and grinning from ear to ear as I viewed the video. At end of the movie, the gentleman departs the train and once silence fills the air as the passengers return to their pre-laughter state. At this point I realized how contagious our emotions are on others.

Growing up I never wanted attention drawn to me. I did everything I could to avoid situations that would make me feel silly or embarrassed or worse make me look like I had no clue what in the world I was doing. I'm not too sure if this was caused by my type A personality, but I know it was far easier for me to sit on the side-lines than to put myself out there for others to see the imperfections--imperfections that many times I focused on all too frequently.However, thankfully with age and a tad of wisdom, I am learning to let go of what others think of me. That still doesn't mean I don't get embarrassed or as we say in the south, flustered when I can't quite master a new activity.

A few weeks ago in my Pilates class, the instructor had us get on the reformer in order to work on some balance exercises. As I was kneeling on the reformer with one of my legs extended on the leg bar, I reached a little too far and as luck would have it, I kept going, and going, and going. And as you probably can guess, I fell right off the reformer. Thankfully no injuries, unless you count my pride. I was laughing so hard that I was almost crying. Soon everyone in the class was laughing. I am not too sure if I was laughing out of embarrassment or because it was funny. I decided to take the latter and laugh in the face of adversity.

So enjoy a little laughter along the way. Life is too short to take it too seriously all the time. My challenge for you is, if you come across someone who is not in a great mood, I ask that you put on an extra smile and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised what an impact your emotions have on others.

Do you believe your emotions impact others around you? Have you found yourself in a good mood only to pulled into someone else's bad mood? Are you willing to laugh in the face of adversity?

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Absolutely! Your mood can raise or pull down those around you. Report
I totally agree with you. There is nothing like getting a "good" laugh in every day. It does change how you feel and definitely others. Thanks for sharing. Report
I am in total agreement with the article. And I love the Law of the Garbage Truck, it's profound. Report
Yes, I believe emotions do effect people around you. I have alway staught the children around me to smile at everyone, once my niece asked howcome I smiled at that guy who was dressed in dirty clothes and looked like he was homeless I said why not he is a person too and what does a smile cost? Nothing they are free! You could make a difference in that persons life by just acknowledging them. Report
I believe that our attitudes are contagious. Let's spread only great attitudes. Report
I enjoyed the post and the replies too ~ I have often thought that people who carried a lot of weight (including me) were sensitive people who had chosen eating and the resulting weight to protect themselves from the feelings of others that they were picking up. I have often heard people say that they weren't affected by something, but actually the pain or sadness was buried inside. It's a challenge to be a sensitive person in a pain-filled world. I am glad I am learning about meditation and prayer. And exercise is a great way too, to release unwanted emotional energy. Report
I used to have a boss that laughed a lot. He always told me that laughter was way better than crying. It's taken me a few years to not take life quite so seriously myself, but I'm a lot better than I used to be. Report
I sit near a co-worker who cracks her gum loudly whenever she's tense. Her job is apparently quite stressful, as she cracks her gum most of the time. Since I'm accommodating by nature, I didn't realize how much this was bothering me until I started feeling irritable one day, seemingly for no reason. Then it hit me -- she was chewing to relieve tension, and I was taking that same tension on. I tried saying something to her, but she justified her actions by stating the stress load she bore.
As her behavior continued, I realized that unconsciously, in response to her stress, I had been "chewing" to bring myself some relief. Sometimes I chewed gum (quietly, but with vigor!); sometimes I nibbled, though I wasn't hungry at all.
The lesson in this for me has been in seeing how I took her stress on, internalized it by eating, and took in all her tension as well. Now that I see the pattern, when she starts cracking for relief I try taking a deep breath or short walk. I'd like to laugh, but sharp repeated sounds at irregular intervals are unsettling from any source. What I can do, however, is distance myself and not let her problems become my own!
Great blog, by the way. It was good to laugh! Report
This was a great article. It is nice to know that laughter can be so healthy and that I am not the only one who laughs uncontrollably in situations like this. Report
I definitely believe emotions/attitudes are contagious. I'm generally a light-hearted person, and laugh at a lot of things. Most people who talk to me on the phone tell me that I lift their spirits because I'm always laughing or just have an upbeat tone. I have one sister who is the same way, and another who's like our mom, negative and worrisome. It plays such a huge difference in your health if you have a positive or negative attitude! I see it in my family all the time. And I can definitely get sucked into a bad mood too.

Staying positive! Report
so true!! This has happened at work this week, one persons bad mood swayed more to a bad mood!! And when one is happy go lucky more are happy go lucky as well!!! Report
I loved this blog because it is so true. When those around me are in a negative mood I always try to make them laugh or at least not take life so seriously! Report
negative people do bring you down. they just know whatelse to do They are not happy unless all the people around them are unhappy Report
Suffering from social phobia I probably would have burst out crying and not with laughter. But I would seriously hope that I could laugh about it at some point.

What I think is funny is that youtube video. Although if a man got on a train and started uncontrollably laughing, I'd probably move to the other side of the train and wonder what he was on....

lol Report
I do believe it! I may be over estimating myself, but I try every day to spread sunshine and laughter. Sometimes life at work can be dreary and depressing; there are lots of things we don't like to do, or feel bad about having to do, but we DO control our reaction to everything that happens - I choose to laugh and have as much fun as possible! Why not? Report
i try to smile at everyone I meet... when people are having a bad day... usually everyone knows... sometimes a smile makes it bearable. Report
I have to whole heartedly agree with this. I let someones negative hateful attitude affect me for 2 days. I am going to try and flip the switch off tomorrow and be cheery regardless of her attitude. Or honestly I will just turn on my i pod again! Report
I often follow the moods of others. I can be in a great mood, but if someone I am with or around is not, I find myself becoming more and more negative. I never thought to remain positive and optimistic ad maybe that person will follow my lead. Report
I relate to this one very well. Many years ago I noticed as a follower, that I go with the strongest emotion that is in the room. (Except for crying. I feel the pain, but can't cry) If there is laughter, I join in readily. And try as I mayno to, if there is criticism, I join in on that or get moody. By far laughter and music are my motivators. Report
Awesome blog! And I totally agree! In my small household (my son, my hubby and myself) I've noticed that when one of us is in a cruddy mood, it seems to pull all of us down and vice versa! This was a nice reminder of that! Thanks!

Great blog. And one that I need to keep reminding myself when I ride my skittish calm (but it's hard to be when she might bolt and leave me in a puddle at any moment! LOL!!!!) Report
Terrific reminder to us to laugh and share it. I should especially have good emotions around my grandchildren. This blog reminds me that we affect others. Zoroastrianism has the wonderful thinking of "good thoughts, good words, good deeds." Report
This is absolutely true. There is times when I am pulled into someone else's "negative" mood and I was doing just fine before it happened. Thank God it doesn't happen often. Those that are around people with bad moods or negative energies seem to get pulled into it at times. Report
Moods are contagious and as a mom I realize the old saying, "If Mommy ain't happy, then nobodies happy" is all too true. Thanks for the reminder that not only am I effected by others but I need to find those times to laugh and share the joy of life with my family as well. Report
I know my emotions affect others around me. I have spent years trying to change my mood or attitude towards things because I am the one usually in a bad mood. My husband, of fourteen years bless his heart, has put up with a lot. He is a jolly, funny man. I have felt over the years that he has kept me balanced and brings laughter into my life where it wouldn't exsist otherwise. But real change began for me when my oldest son was about 7 and he told me that he didn't like himself and didn't think any one else did either. This from a second grader floored me. That is where I began to evolve. Of all the things I want for my kids, the first is for them to grow up happy and to be able to enjoy their life. I try to be happier now and let go much more than I used to. There are days where my husband and kids are playing loudly and it annoys me, but you know what, I just stay quiet because they are happy and playing, which is what I ultimately want for them. Report
My son loves to do this to me just because. He gets such a kick out of how when he starts laughing, I can not control myself. It does not work with my husband however. I guess some people are imune to laughter no matter what. Report
Laughter is still the best medicine!! It's contagious and it's so necessary in order to deal with life on a day to day basis. Report
Not only does this work for humor/grumpy, but also calm/panic. I'm a level 3 network tech and by the time problems get up to me, there are already a bunch of people in a panic because a system is down. I have learned to be ice-cold calm, which seems to settle those around me enough for them to explain the problem well enough that I can start fixing it and then they relax because they feel someone is in control of the situation.

I wholeheartedly agree that our emotions affect those around us. Can someone explain why it is that negative emotions spread so much easier and more lastingly than positive ones...

How do I stop being brought down by the gloomy ones. I try really hard to remain happy by walking away or singing to myself but it is hard.
Happy, Happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream
if you don't have a dream
how you gonner have a dream come true...

Yes people think I'm mad walking down the street singing to myself but then it probably makes them smile so job done. Report
What a great blog! I think I will add it to my visual board! Before you know it I am going to have a visual wall because you all have such brilliant inspirations! Thanks a bunch! Report
Absolutely!! Negativity runs rampant and is so much stronger than positive thoughts. It's amazing how easily we can get pulled into the negative mood of others even when we were feeling really good. I have begun my positive comments statements that I repeat daily so I don't become one of those people who pull others down. When I get stressed out I find I try to pull others into my misery and then also eat. I am focusing on positive thoughts and feel good about even the very minor things. Report
oh i definitly agree that emotions are contagious!! So lets pass on good ones and not bad ones!! Report
Great blog! I can totally relate to what you are saying about when you were growing up and avoiding certain situations! Report
:) great blog Report
Do you believe your emotions impact others around you? Yes, I do.

Have you found yourself in a good mood only to pulled into someone else's bad mood? Yes, and vice versa!

Are you willing to laugh in the face of adversity? If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?? Report
I really enjoyed reading this one - its definitely food for thought. Thank you for sharing! Report
I agree as well. And that's why I try to remember to wear a smile, and pratice enjoying exercising, when I walk. Since I walk through a residential neighbourhood, and there are a lot of younger families around, I have found that smiling while walking seems to put most of them in a better mood too. It IS contagious! Report
If you smile at enough people, others will eventually smile back at you. I try to remember this at the grocery store where everyone always seems pre-occupied. If I can keep it up, I manage to walk out happy, instead of miserable about the rude people running into me with their cart and the baggers that can't manage to pack my food without smashing it. After all, are those things really important? Certainly not as important as a smile. Report
I sure needed that this morning Report
Back in the 60s or 70s there was a variety show called Laugh In. They did one skit that was probably the best, IMO.

One person came out on stage. He looked at the audience and started to chuckle. Pretty soon he was laughing his head off. Then, one by one the whole cast came out and followed suit. Everyone was laughing including, of course, the audience. Then one by one they all went from laughing to chuckling to smiling and left the stage. Not a word was spoken and I remember it frequently 40 years later. Report
This is so true. We do affect those around us. I was in the supermarket one day and it was someone new at the cash register. Every transaction required her to get help. A man in line began complaining loudly, which caused others to do the same. I almost fed into it until I caught myself. It’s very easy to influence others whether good or bad, happy or sad, we have more power than we realize. Report
I absolutey agree. I spent the weekend away with my husband and another couple. The other couple fought all weekend, it was aweful. It took everything I had to enjoy myself as their lousy moods threatened to ruin my trip. However, I did not let it happen, my husband and I had a terrific time despite the chaos they tried to cause. It is so easy to get sucked into misery, sometimes we have to try hard to get passed it. Report
Absolutly!!! I work in the hospitality industry and for a while before that I worked as the dreaded telemarketer. I always laugh about one case in particular while a telemarketer the computer called a man who 93 years old and I was supposed to sell him a cell phone. To say he was cranky was putting it mildly. He informed me in short order the only thing he "hated" more than cell phones was telemarketers. He was so harsh and I was so tired...I just started laughing, and said...well don't hold back sir...better tell me how you really feel. That kind of took him back a bit and he kind of chuckled. Explained to me he was 93 and what in the world would he do with a cell phone. I said yes I see your point and just went on to chat for a minutes with him about other things. We were both smiling at the end and when I went to close the call...He said in his cranky voice you just hold your horses there missy...I'm gonna buy me one of those new fangled phones you called me about. haha. I also see this in my job at the hotel, when we have a guest who is upset sometimes rightly so, sometimes not and are just beng rude. I consider it a challenge to take that person from a frown to a smile. More often than not if I don't take it personally and keep my sense of humour I can turn things around. One corp. client was very abusive verbally to staff, he'd been thrown out of other hotels and had alienated all the front desk staff at ours. I determined the nastier he was the more I'd smile and be so sweet he couldn't stand it. It turned everything around...he comes weekly and he walks in and say things like...Honey I'm home. lol. He gets along with all of us now. Sometimes you just have to hang in there with people. There are alot of hurting people out there, and your smile can make all the difference. Both to them and you.

Heather Report
I love laughter and I am totally fine with being the "butt" of the joke if it means a good laugh can come from it! Report
Not only are immediate emotions contagious, research suggests that happy people can spread their happiness to their friends, and even friends-of-friends. So smile, you'd be doing someone else a favor :D Report
When you said you fell off the Reformer, I thought you were going to say you got on it and "broke wind" and THAT would have been really "red face" for me, so falling off wasn't near as bad. Glad u didn't get injured. Report
Bless you for sharing this! It came at a time when I really needed it. Thanks! Report
I totally agree how emotions really affect people. I need to work on laughing in difficult situations. I am always finding myself griping about this or that. I am such an emotional person . I will have to try this out . Thanks for sharing. Report
Nancy, I loved this blog thank you so much for sharing! It made me smile and get a little emotional... because that's me too! Caring a little too much about what other people are going to think, which is SO silly.... Choosing laughter is so much better for both us and the people around us.... Report