A solitary mental breakdown started months of mass hysteria. A single case of false illness created an imaginary epidemic. These stories show how easy it is for us to "catch" the mindset of even a single person. There are tons of stories like this in social psychology. But if you've read the research or taken a class on the subject, you'll know that people rarely talk about the positive contagions that have occurred throughout time: mass decisions to abolish slavery, global declines in smoking rates, or widespread nonviolence movements in India or Egypt. Positive outbreaks can also begin with a single dancer. If we can create negative franchises, we can equally make positive ones.

The main point I want to highlight here is that you have the power to franchise positive habits in your home or workplace. So try implementing the 10/5 Way in your office or household. Or, if that sounds like too big a task or commitment, try adopting a variation I used in the PBS lecture "The Happiness Advantage for Health" called Flex Your Smile. All you have to do is flex your most powerful muscle three extra times a day. But by this I don't mean smile three times a day. I mean give three extra smiles. For example, smile at a colleague you wouldn't normally smile at in the elevator, smile at the barista when you order your morning coffee (yes, I know it can be hard to smile before you've had your morning coffee , but try it anyway), and smile at a random stranger on your way home from work. Or smile three extra times during the course of a meeting or a sales pitch and watch how this simple behavior change can transform the environment almost immediately. It might sound silly or implausible, but as we just saw at Ochsner, I doubt that any other one-second behavioral change could create that high a return on investment.

Plus there is scientific proof that you can also raise your social and emotional intelligence simply by smiling. When David Havas and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin had participants flex the facial muscles involved in smiling, he found that merely simulating a smile reduced their ability to get angry at another person. And on the flip side, when people used the muscles associated with frowning, they had a harder time being social. If I told you that you could increase your social intelligence by wearing glasses, you might consider getting some clear glasses for work, right? Well, putting a smile on your face is even easier (and less expensive) and can reap the same benefits. Moreover, researchers have found that when you smile, your brain releases the neurochemical dopamine, which improves your mood and your reality as well. Remember, positive realities are contagious in both directions.

The point of this research is not to highlight the value of smiling but to show the value of franchising small, simple changes. Another simple franchise adopted by Ochsner was the "no-venting rule." Employees were trained never to vent in the presence of a patient. They could continue to vent about lack of sleep, fatigue, obnoxious patients, and so on to one another, but never in the presence of a patient, even if the patient was not theirs. The no-venting rule applied not only within the confines of the examination room or the doctor's office but in the hallways, the cafeteria, and so on. These days office buildings have specific smoking areas where we cordon off smokers so their smoke doesn't bother others; perhaps we should start implementing "venting areas" to cordon off complainers so they don't poison others with their negativity at the office.