Turn on the news, swipe through your social media news feed, or overhear a conversation in the local coffee shop, and you’ll encounter salacious and frightening stories that pique your appetite for negativity. But do you have to live this way?
Does negativity really have to be the defining sentiment of your life? The answer, fortunately, is no … but you’ll have to work at it.
Why is a Positive Outlook So Challenging?
In order to understand why positivity can be so difficult to embrace, begin by familiarizing yourself with the negativity bias. This well-studied and documented phenomenon reflects that apparent fact that the brain has a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news.
When faced with two stories — one negative and one positive — our biological response is to be moved more by the negative one.
The brain can also be surprisingly lazy. It’s much easier to speak negatively about someone or something and rehearse all the reasons they’re wrong, than to develop rational observations about how the person or event could be made right.
Media companies understand well the human brain’s responsiveness to negativity and use it to ramp up sales. Thus, we’re swamped by bad news (and hear less often about the thousands of good things that happen every day).
“For the past two decades, two types of headlines have dominated American interests: disaster and conflict,” Karen Le writes for InMyArea.com. “Disaster includes reports about catastrophes, either man-made or natural, and conflict refers to stories about war, terrorism and social violence. These two categories have elicited more interest and attention than stories about money, politics, tabloids, or news overseas.”
Naturally, being surrounded by negative news reports is going to encourage depressed and cynical thoughts. This creates a vicious cycle that makes it hard to return to embracing positive notions.
Five Ways to Embrace the Positive
Though our brains may be hardwired for negativity, you can respond to happy, positive thoughts. By doing the following, you can train yourself to reject negativity and accentuate the positive on a daily basis.
- Turn Off the News
The best remedy for moving away from ugly thoughts is to turn off the news. By staying away from news feeds, you can avoid falling victim to the dour mindset that media companies mostly appeal to. If you do, you’ll spend less time worrying about things you can’t control.
- Team Up
You can’t embrace positivity on your own. The people you’re surrounded by — friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, etc. — have a huge impact on you. Collaborate with them and make a pact to shut down negative talk right away before it inevitably dominates your conversations.
How often do you smile? If you’re honest with yourself, you might go hours or days at a time without cracking a genuine grin.
“The simple act of smiling, even if you don’t necessarily have anything to smile about, can instantly change the way you feel internally,” writes Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D. “Whether you are sitting at your desk, driving in your car, or walking down the street, smile. You will be amazed how your mind reacts.”
- Do Something Kind
It’s really easy to fall down in the dumps when you feel as if everything is going wrong. But if you take a moment to do something kind for someone else, you can actually create positivity in what might be an otherwise negative environment.
This could be as simple as holding a door open for someone, paying for a stranger’s meal, or sending an unsolicited text message to a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
- Find Solutions
When you encounter a negative situation, news story, or circumstance, you’re naturally hardwired to respond with anger, frustration, or pessimism. But what if you made it a goal to foster a constructive approach to such events?
When you encounter a negative situation, train yourself to find a positive interpretation or solution. You could shift your mindset, and also bring practical value to the matter.
Positivity has to be a conscious choice. By taking the time to reject negativity and embrace positivity, you can live a happier and more fulfilling life. How will you respond?