Bilinovich: For all the bad things in life…

Beau Bilinovich, Development Editor

There are the good things, too. Keeping up with life can sometimes seem like a constant barrage of negativity. It can be dizzying and overwhelming. We might experience feelings of anger and frustration.

The news and social media easily add to this effect. We see endless stories of all of the bad that humanity has to offer through the news, from government corruption and police brutality to never-ending wars. On social media, we might witness fiery conflicts over which celebrity should and should not be canceled, or maybe someone just wants to incite an argument for no apparent reason. In either case, we are left with bad feelings.

To be specific, this is not going to be an investigative piece into the dangers of the news media or online social networks—that would counter the purpose of this article. The news and social media do have proper roles in our lives. The news specifically aims to hold institutions accountable; inherent in that process is addressing the problems with our government, public officials and even culture.

However, it would be a lie to say that what we see in the news or on social media is a complete and honest depiction of life. In reality, these only represent one corner of a much larger picture. In the bigger picture, there is good that we can appreciate.

But why do we see all this negativity in the first place? The answer has to do with how our brains process information.

Negativity bias is the name given to the phenomenon whereby we are more receptive to negative information than to positive information. There are multiple explanations as to why we’ve developed a bias towards negativity, but one based on evolution states that paying close attention to negative information alerts us of potential dangers. It acts as a survival mechanism.

So we prefer negative information and seek it out, thereby leading us to believe that the world is a more hostile place than it actually is—a type of negative feedback loop.

The American Psychological Association has shown this kind of exposure to negativity to worsen mental health. For example, they report that, after the Boston Marathon bombings, stress symptoms were highest among people who received the most media exposure, even compared to those who were present on the day of the attack.

The point here is not to add to our negativity bias, but to understand what it simply is: a bias, a trick our brain uses to process information.

Being a stressed college student, I am guilty of negativity bias, as I am sure many others are. In fact, that is why I decided to write this article; I grew tired of only paying attention to the adverse events happening in the country and across the world. And so, to counteract this negativity spiral, I wanted to put these thoughts and feelings into a better perspective.

As I’ve stated many times already, there are good things in life to appreciate. For example, is there a good book you’ve read recently or a wonderfully directed movie that you can’t stop thinking about? If so, take time to think about it; take time to appreciate it; take time to read about it. Let yourself have the opportunity to clear your mind and enjoy it. If you have a dog or a cat, play with them and pet them. Appreciate and love them, as well as your friends and family, because they are worth keeping close. Do something nice for someone, even if it’s something small; they might appreciate it more than you realize. 

On the other hand, it is crucial to be cautious not to fall into the opposite trap of toxic positivity, where we ignore our negative emotions in place of a positive mindset that is ultimately harmful. There is nothing wrong with negative emotions, and we must be honest about them.

But we should, at the very least, allow ourselves the ability to see all the good that there is in life. Amidst all the bad we constantly hear about, it can be refreshing to listen to the good.

Remember: for every bad story, there is likely an equally good story. For every wrongdoing that we witness, there is a good deed that we can do. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, but neither is it all doom and gloom. Take a step back and appreciate the good that life has to offer.