My brand new co-workers sang “Happy Birthday” to me the other day. Even though I cannot remember half their names or that I have worked there less than a month, they sang and watched me blow out a candle on a cake. This simple act brought me so much joy. It was a spot of goodness in an otherwise mundane, gloomy day.
It is often difficult to find the good in this world. We hear the news, check the Internet, interact with people daily – and a lot of negativity surrounds us. From a rude driver on the way to work to news of another mass shooting or the other atrocities from around the world, it’s everywhere. It can make one feel scared and angry; hopeless and frustrated; sad and pessimistic.
I talk to my kids frequently about the bad things they hear and see, but how often do I talk to them about the good? Because the world is still good – it just isn’t as popular as the bad. Turn on any news station and for every positive news story, you will see at least five negative stories. It’s like the good becomes buried by hate, violence, politics, etc. There has been significant research into the impact of negative news with – surprise! – negative consequences. An article from The Guardian in February 2018 examines this issue. It shares research and literary reviews in which, “consumers of negative news, not surprisingly, become glum: a recent literature review cited ‘misperception of risk, anxiety, lower mood levels, learned helplessness, contempt and hostility towards others, desensitization, and in some cases, … complete avoidance of the news.'”
Steven Pinker, the author of the article above, drops this truth bomb: “Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is.”
Is this how I want my children to see the world? Is this how I want to see the world?
No – to both questions. I want my kids to find the good in people and places. I want to wake up optimistic and hopeful for the present and future. I want to educate my children and keep them safe, but I do not want them fearful of life. I do not want the bad to outshine the good.
So I decided to try and share more positive and good news, stories, and pictures. It is beneficial for all of us; it really helps me manage my anxiety; it encourages conversation and debates with my children; it brings a balance to the stream of negative news. Maybe we watch a viral video of police officers playing basketball with neighborhood kids. We can talk about our days and share the funny and good things, from a funny friend’s jokes to the A+ on a test. It does not matter what we talk about, read, or watch. Spread the good, big or small.
There will be bad days. There will be moments of tragedy, pain, and suffering that are impossible to avoid. We cannot bury our heads in the sand, hoping it all disappears. But the world is not all bad. There are good people and places. There are positive news stories and experiences. Our perception of the world can be warped by near constant news media, but the beautiful thing about perception is that we can change it. I’m trying to infuse something positive into every day and to soak up the kindness of people daily. The world is still good; we just have to find it.