CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So, you're starting off your day. Random thoughts are running through your head as you get out of bed -- most likely about the tasks that lie ahead. With lots of practice, you might even be able to drown out some of the "busy brain" buzz with a thought or two of gratitude for your blessings.
Then it's off to the races. Routine tasks like brushing your teeth and taking a shower are breeding grounds for ideas, positive and negative. You have the opportunity to create your own mindset. (Inspirational messages on my bathroom mirror help me.)
Things are going along fairly well. In fact, you're feeling inspired and excited about the day.
And then it happens.
Your balloon bursts. Maybe it's that tone of voice from your spouse. Or the "attitude" from your kids. That email message you just opened. A blurb on the news. Bad weather. Co-workers. Whatever.
Before you know it, your thoughts are turning negative. Those things you were looking forward to have been drowned out. You're feeling resentful and angry.
What happened? Did you catch a bad mood?
As strange as it sounds, there's evidence to support this theory. Some of us are more sensitive to picking up these emotional contagions than others -- just like some catch a cold while others don't. If that's the case, can we fortify ourselves? Is there a vitamin for that?
While I don't know about a vitamin, I've uncovered some helpful hints through my research. Moods seem to infect people just like germs, according to Harvard-educated sociologist, therapist and author Martha Beck and Peter Totterdell, senior research fellow at the University of Sheffield in England.
Shielding yourself from a co-worker's or family member's negativity requires constructing a suit of psychological armor, Beck says. The strength of the armor is determined by the degree of "sponginess" you possess.
Sponginess has to do with your level of absorption. It's not good, bad, right or wrong. Some people are just more susceptible to taking on the emotions of others. That's why venom spewed by co-workers, family members or friends can have such an effect on some of us -- and not so much on others.
Here's a checklist, compiled by Beck, to help us "ARMOR UP":