My dogs are completely ridiculous. When I come home each day, they charge towards me at top speed, so filled with glee that they can hardly contain themselves. They are so excited that they start jumping on one another in a playful Ninja manner, the little dog trying to nip the haunches of her older sister in an effort to reach me first. They quickly become a blurred black and white explosion of play and energy, forgetting the fact that they were even coming to see me.
When they are relaxed, it’s not uncommon to see them mirroring one another, their bodies unconsciously copying the posture and mood of the other. What we are witnessing is co-regulation in action. Because they are close, the mood and actions of one significantly affects the mood and actions of the other.
Co-regulation is that moment by moment interaction between the central nervous system of one person (or dog) with another.
When you laugh, I laugh with you.
When you cry, I feel the heaviness in my chest, and instinctively reach out.
Being in close proximity with one another during this COVID crisis, we can’t help but have a profound effect on those around us. Our central nervous systems are in synchronicity, constantly interacting, bouncing off one another and mirroring emotions that we may not even be aware of. How I am feeling has a huge effect on my household, and how others are feeling affects me. At this time in particular, it’s incredibly important that we are aware of the manner in which we are contributing to, or detracting from the health and well-being of those in our circle.
Co-regulation doesn’t just happen in person. It can also travel through the internet. Another person’s anger can transmit virtually. So can joy. I’m careful in deciding which news to watch, because in general, bad news sells. This morning CTV focussed on new vaccination efforts, miracle plane landings, and funny bad haircuts, and I started my day off with a smile.
I invite you to take the time to notice what you are feeling, and set an intention about the mood you want to spread to those you love. Attached is a fun exercise called “Cookie breathing” developed by Liana Lowenstein which might help. Try practicing, and see if you experience an internal shift.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong