Just kidding. But that title played a part in why you’re reading this, so you’ll definitely be intrigued by our first “Article Ask”: we’re talking about the BBC and negative news. Twitter user @salimk7 sent us Tom Stafford’s article “Psychology: Why Bad News Dominates the Headlines”*** and asked for our response. Let’s pick up where Stafford leaves off: how do you build on a “little bit of hope for humanity”? We say, seek out good news stories! Here are three psychological concepts that relate:
1) Being Happy
Everyone wants to know how to be happier and (hopefully) make others happy as well! It’s been found that “concrete, specific goals of benevolence — like making someone smile or increasing recycling — can inspire happiness. Such concrete behavior is much more effective than performance of similar but more abstract goals — like saving the environment. The reason is that when you pursue concretely framed goals, your expectations of success are more likely to be met in reality.”
The Good News Connection: Good news doesn’t mean not covering “real” issues that you’ll see portrayed as bad-news topics in mainstream media. It means commitment to a productive perspective. For example, an article may be structured like this: “Context (respected not sensationalized); person/group/organization with #Barakability in that context; concrete “CTA” (call to action) that gives you a way to learn more, help, spread the word, or participate in the conversation.” So when you read a piece of good news with a CTA, it not only inspires you to act, it suggests a concrete way to do so, thereby increasing your own happiness as a wonderful side effect!
2) Being Mentally Strong
“Bad news” coverage often makes a problem seem so out of control that you feel helpless. What’s the effect of that? “Wasting brain power ruminating about things you can’t control drains mental energy quickly.” It’s been recommended that to be more mentally strong, you should “save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals. When your thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to more helpful topics.”
The Good News Connection: It’s noted that “productive thoughts don’t need to be extremely positive, but should be realistic.” When you read an example of someone who is in a tough or terrible situation (realistic) but gets up every day and tries their hardest (positive), it is not only informational, but inspiring to your state of mind. Good news stories can make it easier to “identify and replace overly negative thoughts with thoughts that are more productive.”
3) Making the Right Decisions:
Did you know that “at the worst, continual bad news can even stimulate a state of depression, and people who concentrate on all the bad news work themselves up emotionally and become much more likely to make unwise decisions… Even people who don’t watch television or read newspapers are getting hit with nuggets of negativity through social networking and informal conversations”? But don’t give up on the news; instead, make an effort to find and share good news (you’ve already seen some of its great benefits from (1) and (2) above)!
The Good News Connection: How do we break the habit of only feeding ourselves bad news? That also relates to making the right decisions: “we make poorer decisions when we are tired. It’s caused by decision fatigue. The mind can only sort through so many options and make so many choices before it starts to run out of steam.” So, start your day off right and make the first thing you put in your mind a piece of good news: because “the most successful people…don’t use their willpower as a last-ditch defense to stop themselves from disaster. Rather, they conserve willpower by developing effective habits and routines…they make their big decisions in the morning, before decision fatigue sets in.”
Using these tips, you can make good news a part of your life… your brain and heart will thank you! And that itself is, you guessed it, #GoodNews.
TJ Misra is Head of Corporate Communications at BarakaBits.
Here’s the CTA: Share this article with your friends to increase their happiness, mental strength, and decision-making skills! What topic or question would you like to see covered on BarakaBits? Comment below or tweet us @BarakaBits!
***Summary of “Psychology: Why Bad News Dominates the Headlines”
Tom Stafford of the BBC asks, “Why does the media concentrate on the bad things in life, rather than the good? And what might this depressing slant say about us, the audience?”. He answers with two central points that both focus on theories of relatively subconscious brain activities: (1) bad news gets our attention faster because we are biologically programmed to be responsive to threats in our environment, and (2) we are inclined to think of the world/our own lives more optimistically than reason would predict (therefore making bad news stand out even more). The end emphasizes the positive: “So our attraction to bad news may be more complex than just journalistic cynicism or a hunger springing from the darkness within. And that, on another bad news day, gives me a little bit of hope for humanity.”