I remember my Aunt Trudy. Whenever she was in the room, people were always laughing. She knew how to make people laugh. Her humor was never hurtful, although sometimes self-deprecating. Her laughter lit up the room and was contagious.
We’ve all known people like Trudy, whose joy and wit make others happy. Their humor is catching. Smile at someone, they smile back. A smile can be contagious - so can anger, gossip, worry, and fear. The best and the worst of human emotions can easily travel from one person to another.
But what about health? Can health be transmittable? We all hear about infectious diseases and how they spread. Can health spread?
Well, let’s consider this. If our thought effects our health – and it does – then it is not such a big leap to understand that qualities of thought that tend to make us healthier, can be spread from one individual to another – producing similar results.
“There are scads of research indicating that health is contagious,” wrote Dr. Ramani Durvasula, professor of Psychology at California State University and a frequent blogger on the Dr. Oz website. She continued, “Hanging out with people who follow healthy lifestyles begets a healthy lifestyle. It’s viral, like catching a cold.”
Her blog further stated, “This has been shown in children, families, adults. [Psychologist] Albert Bandura showed us years ago that the most powerful way of learning is to watch others do something. Don’t lecture them, don’t make them read about it, don’t punish them – just live it. And let them run with it.”
The Institute for Healthcare Consumerism concurs. They recently reported, “The infectious nature of illness is a subject examined from nearly every angle. However, a reverse view is becoming increasingly more clear – healthy and unhealthy behavior is extremely contagious. Our social networks, online and off, have dramatic impact on our individual health status and behaviors.”
The report goes on to reference a Framingham Heart Study on the impact of good health habits being contagious. They stated, “If a friend quits smoking, we are 36 percent more likely to quit smoking ourselves. Good health is contagious, and both healthy and unhealthy behaviors spread through social groups and networks, in and outside the workplace.”
This link between healthy and unhealthy actions and contagion reminds me of the Bible verse, “…be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim 4: 12). We can let our example be contagious to others, in our habits and lifestyle choices and in the words we speak, letting every action be life-affirming and health-giving.
In this time of precaution over contagious disease, it is good to know that our choices can also bring wellness to others. Let’s get out there and spread health!