How would you describe the world around you and the world we are in? In a bit of a mess probably and certainly the media stories seem to get more and more bizarre at times. But it is also important to understand our own role and participation. There is no such thing as a truly independent observer – we are part of the system and bring our own biases and habits to the party.
In a BBC article: ‘Why bad news dominated the headlines’, researchers looked at the stories most liked and read by participants. The results of the experiment, as well as the stories that were read most, were somewhat depressing. Participants often chose stories with a negative tone – corruption, set-backs, hypocrisy and so on – rather than neutral or positive stories. People who were more interested in current affairs and politics were particularly likely to choose the bad news.
Yet when asked, these people said they preferred good news. On average, they said that the media was ‘too focussed on negative stories.’
Our primitive brains are hard-wired to look out for potential threats and so gravitating towards bad news is a natural habit. Just look at the range of headlines that cover a topic of international importance. They will range from factual headlines to expletives and emotional language. Just look at the posts and tweets that use XXXX slammed YYYY. This is what I call ‘chimp bait’ – it appeals to the chimp in all of us that secretly, or sometimes not so secretly, loves gossip and salacious news.
But there is a way to navigate this and keep sane at the same time. Recognise that we have 2 brains – our human brain and our primitive brain. Our primitive brain thinks faster than our human brain and is always ready to react quickly to external inputs and get distracted.
When you buy a new car, isn’t it funny that you suddenly see loads of them on the road but before, you never noticed? By training our human brain to recognise the chimp triggers we are subjected to and looking for the good news, the good in other people and actively seek to be more grateful, we change what we are looking for and the evidence would suggest that we will see more of it and become happier in the process. It’s all about enabling your human brain to lead your life more.
Your inner chimp is an amazing piece of primitive engineering but it makes a rubbish primary driver of your human journey through life. Being self-aware helps ensure that your human brain is driving and your primitive brain is a happy co-pilot.
I hope you got this far, I’m off to have a banana now…