The ripple effect was first brought to my attention by David Hamilton. His books and talks are all based on research into how our thoughts and actions affect both our health and our impact on others. If you haven’t come across him, he’s worth a read or a watch.

The ripple effect is the effect we have, not just on those we interact with, but on those they interact with as well. In fact, research suggests that the effect is noticeable to at least 3 degrees of separation. That means that if I am friendly, helpful, kind to several people in a day, each of them is more likely to be more friendly, helpful, kind, to the people they interact with, and then each of those people will pass it on as well.

Wow!! Every time I think about it, I find it’s a salutary reminder to be conscious of the impact I am having, because I am affecting a lot of people, for good or ill.

My snapping at someone in frustration may mean they are churlish with their children when they get home – I don’t like that thought. On the other hand, my friendly greeting or sympathetic comment may mean that they are more helpful to the next person they encounter – that is more appealing.

The ripple effect also means that I am aware of the impact others have on me. If we’re aware of how negative or positive energy ripples out, we can consciously counteract the negative ripples when they come at us. I don’t have to take on a negative impact. I can shake it off then and there, so it doesn’t spread further.

In fact, when we’re really on form, we can do more than just stop the negative ripple – we may be able to transform it into a more positive one. For example, if someone is clearly pissed off, we can listen sympathetically, remind them of something to make them laugh instead, help them to change their mood. That way, the ripple effect from them is changed for others too.

We forget sometimes how powerful we are. Our small individual actions and behaviours impact on a much greater scale than we can actually observe.

Next time you’re tempted to snap at someone, just remember: what impact do you want to have on the world?

So let’s ripple away to make the world a better place! It’s not hard to smile – it takes less effort than a frown – and it’s more pleasant for us to be friendly and helpful rather than isolate ourselves. And it only takes a smile to change the world for the better.

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