There are so many uplifting, positive, caring and helping one another occurrences taking place in the world every day. It happens more often that we know or think. As our pandemic continues one of the non-profits I support reported record high donations. I have read so many stories of people stepping up to help vulnerable populations, restaurants feed those in need for free, lots of animals in shelters being adopted, people helping one another in all sorts of beautiful ways.
“Do your little bit of good where you are: it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Desmond Tutu
Last week I struggled in many ways. The manner in which some people treat others with violence, hostility, anger, disrespect, and disregard hit me hard. I have bags in my car filled with supplies of socks, food, and water for people along the road asking for assistance. My most recent encounter was with a 77 year old woman. She shared with me she never thought at 77 years old she would be at the side of a highway asking for help. My heart ached for her. I felt defeated, sad, frozen. I almost felt like chicken little that the sky is falling.
What the news media reports and shares also has an impact on our brains and how we see the world. Letter.ly reports the following in a 2021 article that
“Top Negative News Facts (Editor’s Choice)
- Sensationalist stories form 95% of media headlines nowadays.
- Media reports with negative news or statistics catch 30% more attention.
- 26.7% of people exposed to negative news go on to develop anxiety issues.
- 63% of kids aged 12–18 say that watching the news makes them feel bad.
- 39% of Americans believe the media exaggerated the COVID-19 coverage.
- A staggering 87% of the COVID-19 media coverage in 2020 was negative.”
I don’t share this to report that news or reporters are solely responsible for what is reported. I do feel that the majority of journalists, editors and all other staff are doing what they do with purpose. An LA Times article from 2019 states “Ever wonder why there’s so much bad news out there? Maybe it’s because people find bad news more interesting than good news. A new study involving more than 1,000 people across 17 countries spanning every continent but Antarctica concludes that, on average, people pay more attention to negative news than to positive news. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hint that this human bias toward negative news might be a large part of what drives negative news coverage. But the results also revealed that this negative bias was not shared by everyone, and some even had a positive bias — a sign that there may be a market for positive news.”
For a few days I processed my feelings and emotions. I went back to an action I take whenever I am feeling low. I take action. Yep action. Healthy positive ones. Lots of them. I began with my health basics of care with food, sleep, movement. I bumped up my internal gratitude and positivity notifications in my brain. I decreased my news consumption.
An article in Inc.com states “You brain is wired to focus on the negative. Here’s how to build a new, more positive, mindset anytime, anywhere. Neuroscientists have a name for this automatic habit of the brain: “negativity bias.” It’s an adaptive trait of human psychology that served us well when we were hunting with spears on the savanna 120,000 years ago.
How can we reverse this hard-wired habit of the mind?
Three words: Notice-Shift-Rewire. This simple strategy puts into into practice the core insight coming out of the neuroscience revolution of the past 30 years–the insight that, in the words of early neuroscientist Donald Hebb, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s the insight that reminds us the brain isn’t fixed. Its habits aren’t like plaster. They’re more like plastic, strong enough to resist the occasional push but pliable enough to change in response to repeated effort.
That’s the magic of Notice-Shift-Rewire. By taking a moment each day to bring our attention to this practice, we build the habit of shifting out of negativity bias to more useful mind states: remembering our past wins, celebrating our strengths, and seeing life as a series of opportunities rather than a relentless slog through setbacks and heartbreak.”
Other actions included putting together a bag specific to that woman with lots of socks (she reported she needed socks). I also will add to these bags a local resource people can call for help. Does doing all of this totally take away my heartache that there are people living this way. No. Yet I am able financially and physically to offer help and support so I will, which feels much better than driving by and disregarding their existence.
I have also decided to email all the major media outlets and request they add to their news telling positive stories on a regular basis. I might have to email more than once and I will email for as long as it takes. I will offer to write stories of positivity and kindness at no charge. I will continue to promote all the kindness occurring on a daily basis. I will continue to send my postcards out to random strangers every week. This world and the people in it are worth fighting for. The more we highlight all the beautiful kindnesses helps us and our negative bias brains switch to a strong, positive mindset.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that every has.” Margaret Mead
Everyday at the High School I work at I experience the kind, positive, innovative, respectful, courage, resilient students show up willing to equip themselves with knowledge to do the work needed to help this world become kinder, equitable, healthier, and happier. I see them being the change and sticking to it even when things are tough. Positive change is happening all around us all the time, if we look for it.
So most amazing, capable person reading this you matter. You will forever be the only you. Be good and kind to yourself. Be good and kind to others. Together we can create a tidal wave of positively and love to all we touch. If you are feeling frozen take an action, a step. Hope, even when frail, stands strong and radiates all around. Do something positive for someone else which will also radiate to you. You can be the change.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jame Goodall
May your action be with you💜