The news is full of ideas about how to control your carbon footprint, but recent studies in neuroscience suggest that your emotional footprint plays a bigger role in what you really leave behind.
Whatever your mood, it's contagious! See the smiling face of a loved one, and you smile inside too. Step onto a subway train full of tired, anxious commuters, and you're instantly on edge. Whether your brain is in stress or in joy, that mood radiates outward, either inspiring others with your compassion, authenticity and joy or contributing to their emotional pollution and ramping up their stress levels. Whether it is stress or joy, your emotional state travels from brain to brain and person to person and lives inside others even after you are gone.

This transfer of moods happens through special nerve cells in the brain called mirror neurons. Interestingly, this a throwback to our ancestors needing to know instantly if a person was friend or foe—if a stranger approached with a brain set on fighting and anger, your ancestor would feel the same. Without the ability to sense the intentions of others, they were in grave danger. So these mirror neurons actually download the mood of one person into the brains of others.

But your mood swings are more than contagious—that great mood and that sour one actually change the brains of those around you. All of your moods, emotions and reactions are based on the interaction of neurons that come together in specific ways to send messages to the brain. These neural networks are the wiring of the emotional brain. New wires can be created by the transfer of moods, and once the wire is laid, it can easily be triggered again and again—without the influence of the person who originally passed that emotion on. So you're shaping the wires in those around you on a daily basis—either strengthening the wires that promote joy or bolstering those that cause stress. And your wires live on in the brains of your children, and their children, which is why passing on that state of spiritual connection and compassion is vitally important for your future.

The new era of social responsibility is emotional. If you're stuck in stress, you spread emotional pollution and the extremes of action and emotion that threaten the planet.

How to leave a positive emotional footprint


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