Dr. Jack Haskings, a professor at the University of Tennessee, has spent well over a decade studying the detrimental effects of fear-based media on people. His findings, in addition to confirming the powerful effect regular exposure to negative news has on building anxiety into our lives, also provide a powerful reminder of why mediocrity so frequently and so easily becomes our preferred response when seeing possibilities.
In one particularly noteworthy research project, Dr. Haskings set out to determine the influence a five-minute radio program would have on how people perceive and internalize what they hear and see occurring around them. Haskins exposed one group of people to several weeks of news that was filled with nothing but negativity: an earthquake that kills thousands, a terrorist attack on a school bus, a random shooting in a supermarket, riots in the streets of a large city, and a host of similar occurrences. At the same time, he established a control group that was subject to only positive, uplifting news.
At the end of the project, Haskins discovered four very discernible effects on those people consistently exposed to the daily five-minute barrage of negative information:
• They were more depressed than before;
• They believed the world was a negative place;
• They were less likely to help others;
• They began to believe that what they heard would soon happen to them.
In a nutshell, Dr. Haskins confirmed that consistently being exposed to all that is bad or broken in the world has a very profound effect on how we choose to lead our lives. In addition to making us feel as though we are powerless to positively influence outcomes in our surroundings, it confirms what psychologists and sociologists have been telling us for years. Namely, the thoughts we entertain in our minds quickly become the thoughts that guide our behaviors. So much so, in fact, that it seems reasonable to assert that if being exposed to only five minutes of negative news every day can leave us feeling discouraged, disappointed, and disempowered, it should be no surprise fear has such an easy time convincing us to accept a greatly diminished view of our potential.
Seeing Possibilities – How We Can Change
But what if things could be different? What if we chose to risk leaning into our fears instead of remaining paralyzed by them? What if more of us chose to no longer allow the forces of negativity to discourage us from demonstrating a better way of leading our lives right where we are? How, you ask? Consider:
Cultivating Optimism: Help others see how the world is packed with endless opportunities to add value to their surroundings. Show them how manufacturing your own optimism is as easy as developing new eyes to see possibilities where others can only see problems.
Giving More Than You Take: The real winners in life are those who choose to give the best of themselves in service to a cause greater than themselves. Doing things for other people without expecting anything in return not only benefits them, it does wonders for us physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Be eager to give—it’s one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make and it will rarely cost you a single cent to get started.
Granting Mulligans: Harboring feelings of ill-will towards others does nothing but steal your joy and sag your spirit. Conversely, forgiving another is an act of generosity aimed at opening the door to healing for both the offender and the offended. Learn to be someone who is gracious in granting second-chances. Demonstrate you are willing to separate the actor from the act for the purpose of moving relationships solidly forward.
Stopping and Smelling Roses: We live in a society stuck in fast forward, leading us to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob ourselves of magic moments. So slow down, take a look around, and notice how blessed you really are in this very moment. You might be amazed by what you discover.
Remember, you are today where your thoughts have brought you and you will be tomorrow where your thoughts will lead you. Are you happy with the direction you are currently moving?