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Several years ago, there was a children's song called "Input Output," that atempted to teach children ( and parents) the importance of the stimuli they allow into their world. I was reminded of this song when I read recent research finding that motication, creativity, openness and exploration can be contagious. The experiment, conducted at The University of Rochester, assigned participants a project to work on. They then randomly placed participants with either a highly motivated individual or a low motivated individual. Those who were placed with the hilghly motivated individual experienced dwindlying participation and lower performance. This was not surprising to me, however, what I gound interesting was that neither group was able to identify the influence of the hilghly motivated or low motivated individual. This means, without conscious awareness, participants' motivation, openness and creativity were unconsciously influenced by some randome individual in their environment.

Our brains are wired for mimicking others, whether this be through direct contact, watching vidoes or television, reading books, or listening to music. This is why its so important to eliminate or limit our exposure to all toxic stimuli. Although we may not be consciously aware of their influence on our emotions, attitudes and behaviors, everyone with whom we come into contact (in every venue) influences us in some way. Some of you may be aware of how certain music instills feelings of sadness, anger or elation, or how a horror movie evokes anxiety and fear, and most of us are familiar with the saying "Smile, it's contagious!" You may even streer clear of horror movies or music that speaks to your dark side. But how do you streer clear of the environmental contagions that affect you on a sub-conscious level?

In our book, Love With Intention , we discuss the importance of applying intention t your relationships. We describe intention as a moment to moment awareness, and conscious choices made through this awareness. In the chapter on mindfulness, we share how to tune into unconcsious influences. One of the earliers signs of toxic stimuli, whether it be interanl or external, is through your body. Your body is like an unconscious radar. If you pay attention to the physical signs your body is giving you, you can become more consciously aware of the negative influences in your life. Do you beomce fidgety around an anxious co-worker? Do you get that sinking feeling in your gut when you think about going to visit your sister? Do you feel tightness in your facial muscles when you listen to a song about resentfulness? These are all signs of unconscious (and maybe some conscious) awareness of toxic stimuli. In some cases, this can be eliminated, such as making different music choices or limiting exposure to the news. Other times, when these feelings are associated with loved ones, we may need to set limits on our time with these individual, or learn some effective strategies for coping with the individual or situation. You may need to seek professional help with setting limits and developing healthy coping strategies, as it is not always easy (if it were, you would have done it already). In the long run, if you remain mindful and make conscious choices for protecting your emotional health, we believe you will find greater enjoyment and fulfilment in your life.

by Trish Carter, LIMHP, LPC, BCN

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