I stopped watching and reading the news a long time ago. I unfollow social media channels that promote unnecessary negativity. I recommend you try it, too. It has calmed my mind. You won’t miss out on the biggest news anyway. Trust me. People talk about news wherever you go. And that’s a more comfortable way to hear news than scrolling down on a computer, seeing fifty headlines about how fucked the world is.
Sometimes, after hearing the buzz of some event at a social gathering or on social media, I go online and peek at the headlines. I observe my brain reacting to all these things I didn’t even know I should worry about. Vigilance is required. Without vigilance these stories would start to grow like seeds in my mind, and I would read more news, trying to uncover all the lurking threats of the world, like my life depended on it. It is, in fact, my basic survival instinct that kicks in, and the news are happy to provide fuel to that fire.
Primal Negative Programming
Headlines are negative because humans react more strongly to negativity than positivity. It is part of our primal survival mechanism, evolved over 600 million years, from ancient jellyfish, to humans . During that time we have always lived in extreme environments compared to the safety of modern life.
Imagine our early human ancestor—let’s call him Cave Dave—searching for something to eat. He finds a nice bush full of nuts. Suddenly he hears some rustling inside the bush. Nine out of ten times it would be something harmless, like a squirrel, or the wind. But that one time it was a hungry sabre tooth tiger, the consequence would be death. Thus, the individuals who ran away would be able to pass on their genes, and the human race continued their evolution towards having a tendency for negative thinking. Cognitive psychology calls this the negativity bias. We are hardwired pessimists.
The fear center in our brain, a structure called the amygdala, uses two-thirds of its capacity to look for bad news. Once it finds some, it quickly stores them in memory. In contrast, positive events need to be consciously held in awareness for at least 12 seconds in order to transfer from working memory to long-term memory . Our bodies are threat-tracking machines.
TL;DR | Negativity bias: Your brain is attracted to negative news because of evolution |
No wonder the media pushes negative stories when the masses remain slaves to primal instincts. Negative sells better. Negative generates clicks. Negative reinforces negative.
it’s not just Big Media that pushes negative stories. Alternative media and “spiritual” people sometimes post excessive negative content, the theme often being how we are victims of a shadow government in all ways imaginable.
Don’t get me wrong, propaganda is real, and many truths are being hidden from us. The media affects us, big time. Taking on a victim mentality and succumbing to fear, however, does not help.
Global Civilization Upgrade
There is a lot of bad stuff going on in the world; a lot of great stuff, too. We deal with the bad stuff more effectively, and enjoy the good stuff more deeply, when we come from a place of positivity and peace instead of from a place of negativity and fear.
The best way to change the world is by changing yourself. Work on yourself, your inner peace, your positivity. Studies show that happiness spreads to at least 1000 people within three links from you . Happiness transfers when you interact with your friend, who interacts with her brother, who again interacts with his colleague. The same happens for everybody they interact with.
It is time we shed the outdated layers of conditioning, and rewire our brains for positivity and peace.
Start with yourself, and others will follow your example.
Step #1: Cut The News From Your Life
News are often just a distraction—one of many. Without the news, I have more mental capacity and time to do what I want, and to be more creative. I have replaced my habitual over-indulgence in news and conspiracies with more constructive practices; I read more, create more, and smile more.
If avoiding news is not an option for you, at least establish a daily limit for how much news you read or watch.
Checking the news becomes an automated behavior. You get a dopamine boost every time you do it, and you get addicted. The same goes for social media.
News will desensitize you. Over time you will crave more intense stimulation to get your fix, and possibly neglect the problems you face in your own community.
Step #2: Brain Rewiring + OS Update
Our brains are constantly changing. How your brain is wired now is a result of millions of years of evolution, but also what you have experienced and learned during your lifetime. Together they make up our collective conditioning. We are wired to look for bad news and to store them in memory. A childhood incidence could make you fear dogs forever. A couple of innocent comments could make you stop singing in public forever. You might start seeing conspiracies and threats in every event, movie, song, or news story.
This old conditioning has been great for passing on our genes. But it sucks for inner peace in the modern world. Why should we feel that speaking to a room full of strangers is a life-threatening situation? Why should we fear flying? Or fear the dark?
It is hard to create what you are here to create when you are crippled by fear.
The great thing is that if you desire to become more positive, you can. It does take more effort than succumbing to negativity, but it is well worth it.
Here are some ways to do it:
Awareness, and knowledge of how your brain works, can by itself reduce needless fear. Notice if you have a strong negative reaction, and remind yourself of the negativity bias. Notice when media outlets or other people are promoting unnecessary fear, and remind yourself of the negativity bias.
Meditation will improve your awareness and make it easier to notice when fear arises. Intense focus on the present moment allows you to notice the space between a stimulus and your reaction. Thus, you can choose your preferred reaction instead of using an outdated, conditioned reaction. By learning to observe your thoughts as they arise and pass away—and the space thoughts appear in—you will experience greater calm in general. A mind trained in meditation can remain unaffected, even in stressful situations. Physical changes take place in the brains of meditators. Hardware update.
Practicing gratitude will train your mind to look for the positive instead of the negative. And science confirms that gratitude is one of the main traits associated with happiness. A good way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Or you can do as G did; get an old school tally counter and find 100 things you are grateful for throughout your day—one click per thank you. Over time gratitude will become a habit. Bam. Operative System update.
| More on meditation and gratitude: Master Your Inner Peace – Remain Positive and Unaffected
Savor positive experiences. Neuropsychology tells us that a positive experience needs to be held in awareness for at least 12 seconds to be stored in long-term memory . Savor the positive experiences you have, reflect on them when they happen, and replay them in your mind a couple of times. Feel them as deeply as you can to remember them more vividly. One way to make this more effective is to keep a journal or a Google doc where you write down positive experiences, praise from others, confidence boosts, etc. This makes it easier to go back and replay positive events later.
Look for the positive if you happen to watch the news or scroll through social media. Think it through before you click a negative headline, or share a fear-promoting post. Does reading or sharing it help in any way? Is there something else you could read or share? Is there a positive angle on the same subject?
Adding certain things, like exercise, to your life can help rewire your brain. Exercise releases endorphins which increase the plasticity of your brain. This facilitates learning by making it easier to pave new neural pathways for positivity.
| Learn more brain hacks: Control Your Brain Chemistry – Become Confident and Creative
Step #3: Make The Good Stuff The New Black
Focusing on negativity will make you feel angry, afraid, and powerless. Instead you can focus on how to give value to the world. That will bring value to your life. Helping your friend move into a new house, making your sister feel better, and smiling to a stranger are part of the good stuff.
Play your music, write your stories, paint your thoughts, communicate your emotions, act on your desires, learn something new, invent cool stuff, find smart solutions, help others grow. Help yourself grow.
Motivate yourself by thinking about how the things you do can bring value to the world. Be creative. Think about it, get inspired, and adjust accordingly.
How can you be part of the positive change? By being happier? By smiling more? By doing science? By teaching? Think. Take action.
If you generate a positive output, you automatically lead by example. It becomes a positive feedback loop; you create value, people get inspired, people create value, more people get inspired, more people create value. Value for everyone.
Key Takeaways / TL;DR
We are wired to be pessimistic cave-people.
Solution: Limit news and fear-promoting media channels. Reprogram your mind for positivity. Do good.
In three words, all slogan-like: Remove. Rewire. Create.
 Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.
 Christakis, N. A., & Fowler, J. (2009). Connected. New York: Little, Brown and Company.