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Careful, it's contagious! Rudeness and being lazy can be catching, here's what you need to know

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You know that you can catch a virus like Covid-19 or chickenpox from someone else - but there are a few more things that are also "contagious", but hiding in plain sight. Illustration photo by Getty Images
You know that you can catch a virus like Covid-19 or chickenpox from someone else - but there are a few more things that are also "contagious", but hiding in plain sight. Illustration photo by Getty Images

  • You know that you can catch a virus like Covid-19 or chickenpox from someone else - but there are a few more things that are also "contagious", but hiding in plain sight.
  • These include being lazy and even feeling happy.
  • Here we look at five catching concerns to keep an eye out for, and tell you how to avoid them.
  • The sixth is happiness and we tell you how to invite it into your life.


Your workload might be manageable, but if your colleague at the next desk is stressing, your stress hormones can rise too, say German researchers. "Stress is catching because we mirror the stressed person's body language, which then triggers reactions in our own system," says stress expert Leo Willcocks.

PROTECT YOURSELF: "First acknowledge that the situation causing their stress is not something that you have to worry about. Then consciously change your posture and breathing to mimic a calmer state," says Willcocks. "Breathe slowly and deeply. Smile, sit up straight and relax your shoulders." As you create a calmer body you'll also create a calmer mind.

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Hoping to excel on a project or get the most from bootcamp? Try to avoid pairing up with a slacker. University of New South Wales researchers found that teams containing even one lazy person perform less effectively because everyone else starts to ease off a little bit too.

PROTECT YOURSELF: "By keeping your own values in mind," says psychologist Lindsay Spencer-Matthews. "What are your personal reasons for going to work or exercising? Does the behaviour you're about to exhibit reflect that? If not, then actively choose to do something different. We can be influenced by others, but ultimately we are the ones who choose how we behave."

READ MORE | Is living through a pandemic bringing out the 'mean girl' in you?


Pal up with buddies who have lost weight after changing bad habits and you're more likely to drop kilos too, while if your partner quits smoking you're 67 percent less likely to continue smoking yourself.

BOOST THE BENEFIT: Self-control - the fundamental trait needed to break a bad habit - is highly contagious. In fact, in trials at the University of Georgia in the US, even seeing the name of someone with good self-control flash up on a screen for 10 seconds positively changed people's behaviour afterwards. Think about who has the best self-control among your friends and family. When you find yourself wavering, ask yourself what would that person do? Chances are you'll then follow suit.

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Someone pushes in front of you in the bus queue, but you let it go. Watch out though - when you get home and your partner asks what's for dinner, there's a greater chance of you snapping back a reply. Once someone has been rude to us, our brain is primed to look for more rudeness in the future and we'll often interpret even friendly comments negatively because of that, says research from the University of Florida.

PROTECT YOURSELF: "By practising empathy when rudeness occurs," says neuropsychologist Dr Ash Nayate. "Normally being rude has nothing to do with the person it's directed at, instead it's because the person who was rude is feeling unpleasant in some way. So trying to put yourself in their shoes actually makes it less likely that you'll take it personally and get upset, reducing the risk of you taking it out on others later."

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It's not just the sneezy type of cold you can catch - watching someone shiver actually triggers a drop in temperature in your own body. "Mimicking another person is believed to help us create an internal model of their physiological state, which we can use to better understand their motivations," says researcher Dr Neil Harrison from the UK's University of Sussex.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Sadly feeling warm is not catching, so just sitting there looking snuggly in a jumper is not going to cause your chilly partner or colleague to feel toasty too. What might help you both though is reminiscing over a shared experience. Research has shown that nostalgia helps us feel physically warmer.

READ MORE | Rebel Wilson has been treated differently since weight loss


Good news - you can catch positive things too! It seems that when we're happy our sweat gives off chemicals that actually make those around us start to smile. No wonder studies have shown that having a happy friend living within 1.6km of your home increases your own chance of happiness by a quarter.

BOOST THE BENEFIT: Simply spend more time with happier people. "It's been stated that you become like the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely," says Bradley.

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