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Being Positive Is Not For the Faint Hearted

Being Positive Is Not For the Faint Hearted

BY Michelle McQuaid

Does the news you consume each day – be it on the television, in a newspaper or from a colleague or family member – leave you feeling elevated or crushed?  Let’s face it, the stories of violence, despair and crisis that fill most of our headlines are enough to leave even the most optimistic of us feeling overwhelmed and sad. But is tuning out or turning off bad news the only way to deal with the brutal realities of our world?

Professor Lea Waters from the University of Melbourne cautions that bad news stories have been found to trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression, shape your sense of identity and infect your beliefs about humankind. But she doesn’t suggest this means we should disconnect ourselves from the world.

Why? Because although the media may not often report stories about the positive qualities of human nature, the truth is these examples can also be found all around us. Lea explains that witnessing moral excellence in others has been found to elevate us to want to be kinder, braver and more compassionate people who make the world better.

Watch Lea’s TedX talk to discover how the way you consume and spread news can create a positive ripple of happiness and wellbeing.

What Will You Learn?

  • [2:04] There are many examples of the positive qualities in human nature and about the world becoming a better place, for example since 1990 we have lifted 1.1 billion people out of poverty.
  • [7:48] Learning about the best in people can help teach you about the type of person you want to be – such as, brave, kind, compassionate – and inject hope in to your bloodstream.
  • [9:14] We need to take on the responsibility for sharing stories of the positive qualities in human nature to inject a healing pulse of hope into ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our schools, and our workplaces.
  • [10:00] The ‘elevation effect’ from hearing stories of moral excellence, can inspire human goodness in your life. For example Nelson Mandela’s capacity for forgiveness elevated and shifted a whole country from an apartheid regime to a democratic government. You can train yourself to look for the examples of everyday moral excellence that are all around you – people being brave, kind and acting with integrity, honesty, teamwork and leadership.
  • [12:28] You can trigger hope and happiness in others by sharing the good news. Research has found that positive emotions are contagious – we literally catch positive emotions off each other – and when you share positive news on your social media sites, sixty-four percent of your network will respond with happiness, and it will be spread to other networks.
  • [13:10] This doesn’t mean that you need to ignore the world’s problems, but you’ll have a better perspective and wellbeing if you also appreciate the world’s strengths. Whilst bad news can trigger anxiety and depression in us, good news can help you shape a more hopeful and positive identity.
  • [14:36] But be warned – positivity is not for the faint-hearted. It can be difficult to stay positive with so much negative news around us, and if you choose to become a positive detective be prepared for some negative backlash.
  • [16:56] Unfortunately, some people believe that our negative qualities are somehow more real and more important than our positive qualities. By choosing to be a person who shines light on the good things in the world you will be going against the dominant message of fear and scarcity, and acting in a way that’s counterculture. But persistence with the positivity does pay off.

What Can You Try?

  • Become a Positive Detective – trigger hope and the elevation effect by looking for examples of moral excellence in the world around you. Perhaps it is an act of kindness at work, a local organization doing some wonderful good, or a positive initiative in your workplace. Aim to find at least one example each day, and then once a week spread the positivity by sharing a good news story on your social media site or in conversations with colleagues, friends or family. Notice the contagion effect of your positive emotions.
  • Spotting strengths in others – while it can be easy to recognize the strengths in those around us who we get on well with or admire, it can be a different matter with those we just don’t naturally click with, or the pessimistic soothsayers amongst us. Use strength spotting to look for and appreciate their best qualities, try to understand their rationale, and build a bridge of understanding based on authentic empathy and respect.
  • Experience elevation – feel uplifted every day by registering with DailyGood to receive positive news, hear stories of humanity’s goodness by everyday people, be inspired by quotes and get some great ideas for what you can do to make a positive difference in your life and the world around you.

Want more?

  • Read Lea’s research on Happiness at Work
  • Read this article on How Positive Media Can Make Us Better People
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