Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Your Mental Health Could Be Contagious

depressed studentsYou are sick with the flu so you stay home so as not to infect anyone. But did you ever think your mental health could be contagious?

Researchers at Nortre Dame discovered that thinking styles can be contagious. Your negative thinking can infect another person. Here is what they found.

Notre Dame, like most universities, assigns roommates their freshman year. The researchers looked at how the roommates responded to diversity, specifically how they thought about problems in school like failing an exam. When a more positive person was paired with a more negative person, the negative person infected the positive. Students who were more negative saw failure as a personal problem compared to the more positive student who chalked it up to circumstances like not studying enough. The students who attributed failure to personal problems were more at risk for depression down the road.


But what was really interesting is that the researchers tracked pairs of students who had different styles of responding to adversity and found they infected each other. Within 6 months, the negative students had successfully infected the formally cheery students! And the reverse was also true. The cheery students infected the negative students in a good way making them more resilient.

The take away–you can catch the cheer from cheery people. Try to surround yourself with people who are upbeat and look at the glass half full. if you are heading off to college, find a roommate who is upbeat and deals with adversity in a positive way. Or become that person who refuses to give in to the negative and sees the bright side of even the most difficult situation.

Spread the cheer. Infect someone today!


Source: Haeffel & Hames, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Cognitive Vulnerability to Depression Can Be Contagious. Published in Clinical Psychological Science, April 2013.



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