Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Happiness Tips: Some News is Good News
Happiness Tip 1: Some News is Good News
There is no objective reality. We can watch scenes through cameras, but those are designed based on the way we filter information. Some animals can "see" pheromones, others communicate using dance (that's bees) - if we could sense everything, all at once, we wouldn't be able to cope. So our brains find patterns, label things to make it easier for us to get by from day to day. Take a look at the pictures below - what shapes do you see?
Did you see a white triangle, a snakey thing coiled around a pole, a white sphere covered in spikes? Look again at what is actually there. Only black, Pacman-like circles. There's no pole, no sphere, no "sea" for our Loch Ness monster - only the black shapes exist. Your mind fills in the rest, telling you that the white shapes must be there, because that makes sense. What I'm getting at here is that you do not see the world as it truly is, because your brain is always trying to sort out the information that comes in to make things as easy as possible for you. So how can you truly know what the world is like?
It might seem obvious - almost everyone will agree with you that there's an apple on that tree, that you're holding a rock or that you're in the U.K. (for example) right now, but take it to opinions and feelings and that's a different matter. Is salmon delicious or disgusting? Is rock music amazing or headache-inducing? Which politicians have it right? If you don't have 100% consensus, then how can anybody claim that their answer is a fact? Perhaps in your world, the one your brain is constructing for you every day, fish tastes great and rock music sucks and we should all be a lot more liberal, but another person's world - say, where eating fish is deplorable, rock music is the best but the conservatives have some good points - is just as valid. Both of you have created your idea from the world from your experiences and the things people have told you along the way.
So is the world a wonderful place full of beauty and kindness, or a terrible mess, falling apart thanks to man's greed and stupidity? Well, it's both, and it's neither. If your whole life has consisted of people telling you how terrible everything is, every news story reminds you of some atrocity or human folly, then your idea of the world probably isn't very peachy (unless your own life is wonderful enough to balance it out). But for many of us, every time we check a newspaper or website or turn on the TV or radio, we hear some new piece of evidence that tells us "the world sucks". Some more people died in a terrible way, some other politician said something that makes you lose faith in humanity, some other species of animal is in danger. You might not sit there and cry every time you read a piece of bad news, but every little article chips away a tiny little piece of your resolve, slowly clouding your day and making the world seem that little bit worse.
We never hear about the good news. Disaster sells, and those in charge of the media know exactly what they're doing - when you're convinced that life sucks and you feel unhappy, you're more likely to buy their tickets to escapism, in the form of TV shows about glamorous lives or in the form of expensive products that you don't really need. But what about the good things that are actually happening in the world, now? There are people doing beautiful, amazing deeds every day. Touching stories about people being reunited after years. Scientific advances that will make lives better for so many people. And maybe, just maybe, if you were reminded of these positive things every day, life might seem a little bit sunnier. Things that you tell yourself you can't do might start to seem possible. You might start to judge people's actions with less suspicion and cynicism, letting generous and warm people into your life. You might open yourself up to new possibilities, leading to things you never knew were possible before.
So, that's my tip for today - for however long you spend reading mainstream news, spend the same (or more) time reading positive news. If you never read mainstream news, spend some time on the positive anyway - because those negative stories usually slip into your consciousness anyway, whether you want them to or not. Every "black spike" that you add to that world view will bring something else into view - something that isn't really there. I'm not telling you to ignore what's happening in the world, but to balance it out. And who knows - the world might start to become a better place.
My favourite good news/positive thinking sources:
Huffington Post's Good News
The Good News Network
Global Good News
Scientific American - to see what new wonders science might hold
Blog: 101 Things That Make Me Happy (Lemonade Life)
A beautiful photo every day