WE find our greatest bliss in moments of ''collective effervescence''.

Emotions are like contagious diseases : They can spread from person to person. ''Emotional contagion is when we are literally infected with other people's emotions,'' my colleague Sigal Barsade, a Wharton management professor and a leading researcher on the topic has explained.

''In almost all of our studies, what we have found is that people don't realize it's happening.''

When the pandemic began in 2020, the first negative emotion to spread was fear. Waves of panic crashed through the communities the world over, compelling people to purify packages and hoard hand sanitizers. Most people lost jobs and everyone lost some semblance of normal life.

The number of adults with symptoms of depression or anxiety spoked from one in 10 Americans to about 4 in 10.

And there's reason to believe that these symptoms haven't been caused only by the crises itself - they've actually been transferred from person to person.

Studies show that if your spouse, your family member or your roommate develops depression, you're at heightened risk for it. And contagion isn't limited to face-to-face interaction; Emotions can spread through social media posts and text messages, too.

Emotional contagion can in part explain so-called Zoom fatigue, a phenomenon that has mostly been attributed to sitting still, staring at oversize virtual heads, feeling self-conscious at seeing your own reflection and juggling the cognitive load of reading glitchy facial expressions.

The science of contagion suggests that the negative emotions we feel from video-call overuse could be partially driven by hours of communicating with people who are also sad, stressed, lonely or tired.

[ How to survive a Zoombie apocalypse : Avoid eye contact at all costs ].

When it first became clear that people would be encouraged to stay at home and avoid large crowds, a joke circulated in which introverts declared, ''I've been preparing for this moment my entire life.''

But the data tell a different story : During the pandemic, it’s generally been introverts, not extroverts, who have reported more depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness.

When Elime Durkheim first wrote about collective effervescence, in 1912, it was the eve of  World War 1 and six years before the Spanish flu began its deadly spread.

But the Roaring Twenties brought it back in full force. People sang and danced together and watched and played sports together.

They didn't just find collective effervescence in the shallow fun of frivolous activities; they also forged it in the deep fun of creating together and solving problems together. That decade brought an explosion of popular art like jazz and talking films, recreation like water skiing and medical advancements like insulin.

As some countries start to reopen, collective  effervescence will happen naturally - and it already is. There will be fewer zoombies roaming the Internet in their pajama bottoms, reaching out listlessly through their computer screens.

Some of us have already started feeling the thrill of creative collisions at work and the rush of a real vacation. But getting out of the house doesn't guarantee that we'll pursue happiness the best way.

Psychologists find that in cultures where people pursue happiness individually, they may actually become lonelier. But in cultures where they pursue happiness socially - through connecting, caring and contributing people appear to be more likely to gain well being.

The return to a dreamy normalcy in some parts of the world, or something like it, is a time to rethink our understanding of mental health and well-being. We should think of flourishing less as personal euphoria and more as collective effervescence.

HAPPINESS lives in the kinds of moments that we celebrated in the early days of Covid, - when people found solidarity singing together singing together out their windows in Italy, using dish soap to turn their kitchen floors into treadmills in Brazil, and clapping and banging pots with spoons to honor essential workers around the world.

It was reborn in New York City when more than 15,000 strangers heard Mr. Chapelle sing, ''I don't belong here,'' and they all felt they belonged there.

The Declaration of Independence promised Americans unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If we want the pursuit to bring us bliss, it may be time to create a Declaration of Interdependence.

You can feel depressed and anxious alone, but it's rare to laugh alone or love alone. Joy shared is joy sustained.

The World Students Society thanks author Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, the author of ''Think Again : The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know'' and the host of the TED podcast ''WorkLife''.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!