Over the last two years, we have adopted new words into our everyday vocabulary - quarantine, PCR test, front-line worker, mask mandate, "fully vaxed," social distancing. One word (which was apparently not a real word before) became popular enough that Merriam-Webster added it to the dictionary in October 2021.
Super-spreader: an event or location at which a significant number of people contract the same communicable disease.
In addition to the official definition above, our family (like many) uses this term to describe our individual behaviors, especially when giving directions to our children. "Wear your mask. Stay home if you feel sick. Let's get you tested. You don't want to be a super-spreader."
As we enter into another period of uncertainty around COVID-19 (holiday gatherings across generations, increased travel, and the unknowns about the Omicron variant), I am mindful about minimizing the risk of being a super-spreader. But I want to be equally mindful about what else I might be spreading - what emotions, feelings, and energy am I spreading to others?
Early in the pandemic, one of my neighbors put up a sign that read, "Kindness is also contagious. Spread it." That saying has stuck with me, and when I am at my best, remembering it helps anchor my behaviors around gratitude, kindness, and helping others.
I recently read "The Burnout Epidemic" by Jennifer Moss (which I highly recommend for anyone interested in creating a healthy, engaged and empathetic workplace). And I was surprised to learn the power of our emotional contagion. Moss cites the work of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, who studied the relationships of nearly 5,000 people who were tracked for decades as part of the Framingham Heart Study.
What they found is that happiness (or well-being) spreads, and can be quite contagious. Happiness moves readily through social networks of friends, neighbors and family members. Some cool stats from Christakis and Fowler's study that Moss shares:
Knowing someone who is happier makes you 15% more likely to be happy yourself
A happy friend who lives within a half mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy
Next-door neighbors who are happy make you 34% more likely to be happy too
So, as you think about what you're spreading... what do you want to spread? As we enter this holiday season, my intent is to spread gratitude. Gratitude for the person who holds the door for me, gratitude for the person who delivers our packages, gratitude for all front-line workers, gratitude for the healthcare professionals and scientists who have worked tirelessly to combat COVID-19, gratitude for my children's teachers, gratitude for the people I am privileged to work with, gratitude for the writers and thinkers that inspire me, gratitude for the friends and family in my life, gratitude to God and this awe-inspiring universe, and gratitude that I get to be here, alive, right now.
I'm hoping you'll join me in being super-spreaders of some positivity, hope and light this holiday season.