Have you ever wondered why some people make you feel good, whereas others, just drain you? Why being around happy and cheerful people makes you feel good, but when you in the presence of someone who is constantly unhappy and complaining it makes you feel similar emotions? Even if you previously didn’t have much to complain about, now you feel like you could certainly add your part and kick up a fuss for no other reason, then because you want to.

There could be a million reasons, for why you feel this certain way. Part of the explanation might be kept in your brain. The human brain is amazing. This organ of just above a kilo holds all of our memories, knowledge, personality, character, emotions. There is still so much that’s unknown about the human brain. There are parts though, which could be responsible for you feeling a certain way around certain people.

The mirror neurons

Just around 20 years ago, a team of scientists, led by Giacomo Rizzolatti discovered something in the monkey’s brain. The special cells later called mirror neurons were discovered. Those cells seemed to be activated on two occasions. Firstly, when the monkey did something and secondly when the monkey just watched another monkey do the same thing.

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This was a big discovery. Now it was possible to hypotycise, that merely by watching something, it would feel as if the monkey did it himself. As you might suspect, monkey’s brains are quite close in design to human brains, so there we go.

Speculations and discussions over human mirror neurons have been with us ever since.

Monkey see monkey do.

It is believed that one of the functions of mirror neurons could be to help with learning by observing. In simple terms, you watch someone performing a task, and as you watch it, your brain mimics it, as if you’d already done it. As a result, you create the ability to do it yourself.

Imagine a baby, watching you at the dinner table, using your spoon to eat the soup. You don’t have to wait too long until the baby takes the spoon and tries to mimic you. Wonderful, isn’t it?

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You must have heard of many great athletes, who practice in their heads many times before they go on to the real competition. It’s a common belief, that the same parts of the brain light up when you do just ‘mental rehearsal’ of the topic as if you would physically do it.

As a result, if an athlete rehearses in his head, he’s performed the action this one more time (at least the brain thinks he did). As you know, practice makes it perfect, right? So if they are able to rehearse in their head, it might give them the upper hand later in the game.

How do mirror neurons affect our emotions?

Now, coming back to the original question. Do mirror neurons have anything to do with how we feel around people? It isn’t totally unreasonable to connect those two together.

What if, just by being around someone who’s complaining all the time, your mirror neurons activate, making you feel the same. Some might argue, that’s how humans learn to be empathic. Your brain, simply forces you to feel how others feel, so that you could better understand them.

This is great if you want to be empathic. Not so good, if you surrounded by blood-sucking, forever unhappy, mood draining coworkers or friends. You don’t want to end up like them, right?

Watch out! Complaining is contagious!

Scientists agree, mood, good or bad, could be contagious. Humans are extremely receptive to all clues about others. When you see someone complain, you unconsciously mimic their behavior at first. You start to frown like them, you copy their body language, you mimic their pace of talking. Before you know it, you start to feel like them. Your bodies are already looking alike, so it is just a matter of time before your mind adjusts.

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Apparently, you are the collective of five people you spend the most time with. If this is the case, perhaps it’s worth checking who are you surrounding yourself with.

We care about our environment greatly. We buy organic food, check for bio, gluten-free, high-fiber, vegan or keto options. We care about the air we breathe and even pay attention if there is not too much noise pollution around us. We exercise our bodies, we train our minds. Personal development is important to us.

In the scope of all of this, it seems natural, that we have to care about the type of people we surround ourselves with. Knowing that moods can be contagious, it’s best to surround ourselves with loving, supporting, accepting, helpful and happy people. There is no need for toxic relationships in our lives.

Oh, and one more thing. Next time you talk to someone, make sure it’s not you who is spreading the negativity virus.

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