Who have you affected today? The answer is: anyone you have had any sort of contact with. That’s a bit scary isn’t it? We tend to think we only affect others if we have consciously decided to do so, yet we know it’s not true.

Think about it the other way round: has anyone made you smile or laugh or feel warm today? Or have they annoyed you, bored you, upset you? It only takes a word or two, a line in an email from someone, to set our mood for a while. Even people there is no direct contact with can change our mood: the person who’s being delightful with someone else in your vicinity – and the one who is being unpleasant with someone – not to mention the news, or the dj on the radio!

It’s called the ripple effect because how we are with others ripples out, not just to them, but also to the next people they encounter, and from those people to their interactions, etc. There is research that proves this effect, and we all actually experience it, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Many years ago, I realised this, when Jo, my son, and I were on a retreat with our teacher and friend Emmanuel. It was in the south of France in the summer, and we were given an afternoon off, but with homework to do: we had to do something that helped others. Jo and I spent moments considering this, and decided not to! We went to the seaside instead, having lovely coffee, a great ice cream, and playing silly buggers on the beach. We had great fun, and went back feeling great.

Then there was report-back from the homework and people started talking about the ways they’d been kind to others. I decided to do true confession, and said that we had just gone and had fun. The group were a bit shocked that we didn’t just ignore the homework, we also admitted to it! Emmanuel’s response, however, was quite different: he suggested that we had probably had a positive impact on more people than anyone else, because our joy and fun had affected passers-by, people on the bus, and anyone who encountered or saw us. I was astonished and delighted that helping others could be so easy and pleasurable!

So what effect are you having in the world? Just stop and think about it, before you snap at someone or, sometimes worse, ignore them. You can make a positive difference in the world every single day, by just saying a kind word, being happy, deciding not to react negatively.

And you can choose not to allow someone else’s bad mood to ripple to you and through you. Why should they be able to use you as a vehicle to send negative ripples into the world? Just recognise your reaction to their mood, and consciously walk away from it, and choose your own mood.

If only for today, choose to have a positive ripple effect, and see what happens…

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