With all the turmoil in the world, it can be difficult to stay positive. But when we focus on our immediate sphere of influence and try to be a force for good, we can affect the world in positive ways and help make it a better place for everyone by overcoming polarization. June is a month of many diverse celebrations, which makes it a great time to remind ourselves why humanity is at the foundation of how we conduct ourselves, our businesses, and our lives.
The era of the 24-hour news cycle
If we’re not careful, we can be fed a constant stream of negativity. Social apps, internet forums, popular culture, and even news sites give voice to many divisive opinions — after all, fear and outrage sell. Researchers at Cambridge University examined almost three million posts on social media and media outlets. They found that users are less engaged with positive content and found that negative posts get twice as much engagement. This means that our feeds overemphasize the things that bring us down and downplay the good things people are doing in the world. Yet studies show that it’s actually the best time in human history to be alive in terms of death, disease, literacy, and overall well-being.
“The amount of information that we must process, analyze, and evaluate is something that no other generation on earth has had to contend with,” says Chuck Funke, ASEA CEO, “The increase in distress due to what you’ve seen and experienced is a normal response. The immediate effects of the infodemic have been widely observed. We’ve seen that in surges in mental health concerns, substance abuse, and in domestic violence. Our proximity to others signals safety. There is great power in being together. The current global crisis also reminds us that what affects the human family has to be addressed by all of us. The solutions to the world’s calamities as is the case with so many other problems depend on our collective cooperation. Ultimately, if humanity is to thrive, we must remember that we are one.”
Our bodies and minds were not designed to receive the constant barrage of negative news and updates, minute-by-minute, every single day. Historically, we needed stress to help us differentiate between good and bad, life and death. Studies show that constant media updates have the tendency to trigger our flight, fight, or freeze response. Instead of our body overreacting when being chased by a lion, in modern society we’re seeing the repercussions of cortisol on our growth process, immune system, and mental health. Both depression and PTSD are linked to high cortisol levels, which in turn can lead to memory decline. In other words, it’s a good idea to limit your exposure to news and social media updates.
Focus on the good
“The world needs us and this mission and this ethos more than ever before,” says Tyler Norton, ASEA founder. “The world needs you and your unique outlook, talents, and love more than ever before. Do not take counsel from fear. This is not a time to shrink, but rather, it’s a time to expand. The world is starving for unity, increased civility, kindness, and humility during a difficult time. Greet this day with love in your heart.”
It can be overwhelming to know exactly what you can do to make a difference in the world, especially when so much heartache and division seem to surround us. Believe it or not, staying positive, overcoming polarization, and continuing to believe in the good in people makes a big impact on the world around you. When we look to apply the ASEA ethos, we do it with three dimensions in mind:
- How you see and treat yourself
- How you see and treat others
- How you see and treat the opportunity.
Even if there’s nothing dramatic we can do to help, people will feel supported, loved, and accepted when we exhibit positivity. And that helps in immeasurable ways.
Positive thinking helps with stress management and can improve society. Studies show that those who practice daily positive thinking, prayer, or meditative mindfulness are more likely to donate to charity and serve in their communities. When we have a positive attitude toward our neighbors, family, community, and society we not only tend to be healthier, but we also tend to have a bigger impact on the world around us. Researchers have found that those who meditated, prayed, or exhibited constant positive thoughts about others, were more likely to help others and treat others kindly.
“It’s important to remember that our influence on one another in this world will be largely determined by how we see and treat others as people,” says Tyler, “We should be careful with how we treat others that are different from us, and who may have a different opinion. We might be surprised to know that the law of the harvest is real. When we are planting certain seeds, we will reap what we sow.”
We all have a tendency to divide people, things, and ideas into sharply contrasting categories. Consciously or unconsciously, we carry around concepts of “us” and “them,” “right” and “wrong,” “worthy” and “unworthy.” Scientists say this tendency serves as a protective effort of our brains, but it’s not an accurate depiction of others. Politics, religion, culture, and beliefs are all highly personal and rarely have to do with a person’s moral character, but more about what helps them feel safe in the world. When we allow ourselves to judge others for their differences from us there’s not much room for middle ground. Polarization is at its most problematic when we dehumanize people — when we forget that the people we judge, criticize, and disagree with are actually as fully human as we are.
“When we see others in their truest sense, and with our sincere hearts, we are true,” says Tyler, “When we see others falsely and forget their humanity, we are being false. We see that they matter as much as we matter. When we view them as our fellow brother or sister, we remember that their lives matter, their fears are real, their hopes are real, and their desires are real.”
It’s important to remember that everyone we meet is a fellow human being who wants to be happy just like us. Just like us, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Just like us, they don’t want to be disliked. Just like us, they want to have friends, be loved, and be respected. And just like us, they make mistakes and have bad days. Treating others the way we’d want to be treated helps us appreciate our interconnectedness with everyone. When we focus on respecting people, we empower healing, we change our own negative outlook, and help create a healthier state of our culture as a whole.
Seeing people as people
No matter someone’s religion, background, culture, ethnicity, abilities, gender, or sexuality, it’s important to be kind and treat them with respect. Speaking from our shared humanity communicates respect for yourself and others, rather than disrespect, aggression, and polarization. Speaking from the heart and communicating from the heart can have a healing effect. Having a positive outlook, overcoming polarization, and giving others the benefit of the doubt brings humanity closer together and allows us to accomplish big things. The data doesn’t lie. You truly can make a difference in the world, one positive thought, one positive word, one kind deed at a time.