If you were to ask a young person today whether the world is more dangerous or less dangerous than in previous generations what would they say? In many of our young peoples minds the world is worse today than it has ever been and it is only getting worse. In their minds there are more wars, more killings, more bullying, less kindness…you get the point.
Why are they under this impression when the facts do not support their feelings. Dr. Eva Ritvo wrote that “Although the media would have us believe that violence is more prevalent than ever, the facts show the reverse….violence has declined over the long stretches of history and we are now living in the most peaceful time in human history”.
So why is the news so negative when people say they actually prefer positive news? One simple answer is money. Well maybe it is not that simple. Dr. Ritvo goes on to explain that “…our brains are wired to look for danger…Now you know why you won’t stay up late to hear about a community project to help the homeless but you can’t stop watching/reading about the latest mass shooting”. Another study conducted by Ohio State University psychologist John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D concluded that, “your brain is simply built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain’s information processing”. That is why the news may be so negative or why are there are so many crime shows on TV? Because they want people to watch, and our brains are wired to watch. The more people that watch, the more companies will pay to advertise on their channels.
Just because our brains are wired to consume negative material does not mean that it is good for us. In the day in which we live there is a 24 hour news cycle, and there seems to always be something that is shocking going on somewhere in the world. If not, no worries, news organizations and politicians have become brilliant at creating a threat or an impending disaster out of whole cloth and trying to convince people of impending doom if they do not support their cause. They know that doing so will get more eyeballs and more of a reaction than the truth if the truth is positive.
It benefits the news organizations and the politicians, but is it hurting us? Is it hurting our children? Could this be one of the reasons that there seems to be rising rates of anxiety and depression?
Dr. Ritvo said “What we are consuming is all wrong for us. If we want to obtain optimal health, we must fight this inborn desire to see horrifying acts and train ourselves to immerse ourselves in kindness. This shift will allow us to continue to evolve in a positive direction, guided by our “better angels.”
We give that challenge to our athletes and their families…immerse yourselves in kindness. Live with your “eyes up” and notice all the good. If you see something wrong then “do the work” to improve what you can. Not only in being kind, but in looking for examples of kindness, and watching and listening to positive material that will inspire you to be and do better. Keep your Eyes Up and Do the Work. You will be happier if you do.