There’s literally an epidemic of negative talk, and depression that many of us are experiencing/observing all around us – made worse by COVID.
Are we being manipulated by the media and social media platforms where the vast majority of the content generated is generally one of fear, doom and gloom, and/or of scarcity? Rarely televising happiness, joy, and inspiration…?
And by doing so, in turn, finding that unconsciously, we look for negative traits in others and even focus on faults in their appearance…..?
Humans are hardwired to be negative – with there being so much detail and information around us, as part of our early evolution, it has helped us to survive by primarily focusing upon the threats within our environment.
We experience negative emotions as being more powerful than positive emotions – meaning we hold onto distress much longer than joy/happiness. So even if the vast majority of your day was quite positive, if eg. one person makes a derogative comment about your hair, it then becomes a ‘bad day’, completely negating all the good things that did occur.
The closer we get to negative experiences the more negative they become. For example, many children (and adults) experience fear when they have to undertake exams. The closer the exam date is the stronger the anxiety they experience.
This attention to negative details is what psychologists call negativity bias…..For example, you are going for a bike ride with friends walking along a trail and encounter a snake. Most people will remember the snake incident better because of its negative experience.
Two ways to help yourselves:
So, what stops us from becoming more distressed as a result? Professor Lea Waters, psychologist, in her Ted-ex talk discusses how you can train yourself to be a positive ‘detective’ and look for positive emotions and moral excellence. She says that the keys to overcoming negativity are emotional contagion and the elevation effect.
Emotional contagion is “catching” positive emotions from others. Eg. when someone smiles at you and you smile back unconsciously.
The elevation effect is when we witness excellence in others and in turn this inspires us to strive for excellence. Eg. when we watch athletes at an Olympics it often inspires us to take up exercise to become fitter and stronger.
Every day all around us are examples of moral excellence – where we witness great acts of kindness and courage. People acting with integrity, or teamsmanship, or leadership. By consistently looking for these in our environments it generates hope and inspires us to be kinder and braver.
Parents can play a significant role in their children’s lives by sharing that moral excellence – pointing out examples around them or when they themselves demonstrate this.
If you share positive news, you are making your friends/family happy. It doesn’t mean blind optimism either.
So rather than sharing negative news (that is consistently around us), learn to be agents of hope, sharing the best of us with one another instead….. 😊