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  • Writer's picturetim

Positively Contagious

Our actions, emotions, and attitudes are contagious. Like a friend's yawn or a laugh they spread to us. Like when the boss is in a bad mood and it puts a cloud over the entire office. It could be good or bad, but almost everything we do spreads to others. Let me show you.

That's the kind of thing that comes to mind when even your Netflix streaming finds its way into the context of your work.

During its 11 television seasons, Cheers episode teasers had a life of their own. Typically one minute long, they served to warm up the audience. It's here that I found gold watching the series again on Netflix.

In Season 3 Episode 14 teaser, “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” characters start singing a song that was unwittingly initiated by a passerby.

Click to watch the video.

Maybe you’re singing it now. Here’s the thing, what we do spreads to others. What others do finds its way to us. And not just in sitcoms. But I filed this thought away like so many others not knowing when it might find its way into the world. Then, I read a little science this weekend:

  • Researchers from Yale University closely monitored about 5,000 people living in the small town of Framingham, Massachusetts, for more than thirty years. They found that when someone became happy or sad, that emotion rippled throughout the town.

  • Another study, published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, showed that even below-the-surface emotions, such as motivation, are contagious. If someone is working in the same room with people who are internally driven, their attitude also improves. If, however, someone is working in the same room with those who aren’t too excited about their work, then their motivation decreases.

  • A 2017 study out of Northwestern University found that sitting within 25 feet of a high performer at work improved an employee’s performance by 15 percent. But sitting within 25 feet of a low performer hurt their performance by 30 percent.

It all points toward the same basic truth:

The people we surround ourselves with shape us, and we shape those around us.

So let’s be mindful. When something makes us angry, let’s pause before reacting and consider the ripple effect of our response. When we find ourselves bored or distracted, let’s hone in on something constructive. When we’re not motivated, let’s light a fire within ourselves to be all in. Just like that, we can disrupt the negative thing and put things on the right track. Like the last character in that Cheers teaser, we can sing a different tune. It can’t hurt, and it might even get a few laughs.


  1. NBC’s Cheers

  2. Science via Brad Stulberg at

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