We are all part of an ecosystem -- several, actually. Our families, communities, schools and workplaces are all environments of which we are a part. We affect, and are affected by, everything else that is a part of each ecosystem.
I love the definition of ecosystem from Wikipedia; especially the description of how all living organisms are "linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows."
I constantly remind myself to be mindful of the "nutrition" and "energy" I am adding to the lives of the people I meet and interact with every day. Am I adding something positive? Do I contribute something that helps and supports people? Social contagion is real. We catch each other's emotions just like we catch colds and flu viruses from each other.
A recent article got me thinking about this again. Erica Pearson of the New York Daily News describes a University of Pennsylvania study that found negative tweets by younger people are associated with higher rates of stress and heart disease in the larger community. Tweets about hating and being bored and unmotivated were linked with higher heart disease in the community. Tweets about friendship and about what's good in the world were linked with lower rates of the disease. The study found that it was not the "tweeters" who experienced the increase in heart disease, but that those young people were representative of the larger community in which they reside. In other words, communities that are less well (more disease) are those that seem to be associated with more negative and unmotivated young people (at least according to their tweet content). "When people in your community are angry you are likely to feel that simply through psychological contagion," said lead researcher Johannes Eichstaedt, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student.
So, what are people "catching" from you? If you are hanging on to anger and negativity, it is not just affecting you, but it is affecting everyone around you. The entire ecosystem is changed by you and the nutrition and energy (or lack thereof) that you contribute.
Maybe a better question is, what do you want people to catch from you? Start by thinking about the kind of world you want. I cannot say I have ever met a person who said they want to live in a world that is negative, angry, sad and unmotivated. My guess is all of us -- or most of us -- would say we want to be part of a world that is positive, peaceful, happy and energized.
Here are three ways you can contribute healthy nutrition and energy to the ecosystems of which you are a part every day:
1) Ask yourself, and answer, 'What's good today?' Then ask one other person.
2) Compliment/appreciate one person in your life. Wait long enough to see them smile and light up when you do. Remind yourself of that memory as you drift off to sleep.
3) Spend one minute in total silence. Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and turn down the volume on your internal dialogue. Just be.
Do you make a difference? You bet, you do. What you think about, feel and do will either add to or detract from the health of your ecosystem. What will you choose?
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