It’s springtime, and about to be Easter around these parts — the time of the year when we focus on rebirth and renewal. I always think of it as a time with so much potentiality in the air, you know? And it could be the pollen getting to me, but I really feel that with the warmer air, and the flowers beginning to bloom, it’s almost like the weather is urging us to focus on the positive, and the bright side. To share the happy.
I know. I sound crazy, but stay with me.
I’ve mentioned before (ranted, actually), that I think that gratitude is important, even in a time when the world is in turmoil. At the time I wrote that, there was a lot of really ugly issues in the news, but I can’t help but notice that regardless of what’s making headlines, at some point in our culture, it became cool to complain. That somehow, we became convinced that sharing how miserable our lives are — with a wink and a wry smile, if we can manage it — makes us more attractive. That expressing our disgust and dismay at things, with complete hubris and without considering how that expression might affect our friends, family and loved ones, is somehow “brave” and “authentic.” That public suffering and humiliation is entertainment.
But I’ve come to believe our general outlook behaves similarly to our bodies: our ability to look at the negative, if exercised like a muscle, gets stronger and more robust, to the point where all we can see is negative. (And I think this is true, even if we try to wrap up these expressions with a wink and wry smile, even if we think we’re being funny or entertaining. Negativity is insidious this way.) And if all we see is negative, then happiness and joy necessarily make their departures.
The good news, I think, is that the same is true for our ability to look at the positive: if exercised, this capability gets strong and more robust, to the point where we are able to find hope and gratitude even in the toughest situations. To be clear: I am not saying that we shouldn’t express frustration or anger or annoyance — I’m simply saying that perhaps it makes sense to be circumspect when we do. Relying on trusted friends for help is never a bad thing. Asking for assistance — even on the internet! — is often a good thing. But I think there’s a stark difference between seeking comfort and assistance to get through tough times, and bitching on the internet for the sake of bitching. And I think the latter, while possibly giving us a shot of immediate solace, is far more damaging to our psyches in the long run than we can even begin to understand.
And so, in the spirit of newness and springtime, I thought I’d share my top 10 ways to share the happy, and put more good out into the world. These are really easy to do, too — so even if you’re feeling a bit curmudgeonly, you won’t feel too put out doing some of them — and who knows, maybe it’ll cheer you up as well.
1. Wish people a good day, or a happy moment on Facebook or on Twitter. Just because.
2. Write a post or a Facebook update about a moment in your day that you were grateful for.
3. Share a video that has an awesome message or a positive story.
4. When you’re out in public, sneakily (yet respecfully) take a photograph of someone who you think looks amazing — great style, say, or simply glows. Share it on Twitter. In other words, gossip the good stuff.
5. Share the blog posts or Facebook updates written by someone who has taken the time to share positive content.
6. Find positive news stories in the mainstream media (CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, New York Times, etc.), and be sure to share them and link to them.
8. When a celebrity does something you think is noteworthy or amazing or selfless, compliment them publicly online (so many of them have Twitter accounts). So many celebrities either get rabid fanmail or criticism: sending them a public note of encouragement for inspiring behaviour will definitely be noticed and appreciated.
9. If you do write something online because you are bothered by an issue or are otherwise experiencing something difficult, be circumspect: for example, posit a solution, or invite sincere assistance. Be wary of inadvertently encouraging the gathering of torches and pitchforks, unless you are honestly trying to galvanize those who read your post for the specific purpose of creating positive change.
10. Take a photograph of something beautiful. Share it online.
And finally, Shawn Achor makes my point about why focusing on the positive is good for us better than I do, I think. Enjoy is very funny, insightful TED talk, below.