"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

There’s good news today! Believe it… because it’s true. don’t let the negative nellies make you sick with worry

By on September 24, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

June DarlingBy June Darling

Today, 137,000 fewer people are in extreme poverty than yesterday!

This number, according to Oxford economist Max Roser, is true (on average) not only for today, but for every single day since 1990.

Why am I telling you this? Because you probably haven’t heard it. Not only that, but if you are like 9 out of 10 people, you probably think that, not only is extreme poverty getting worse; but that the world, in general, is going to hell in a handbasket.

It doesn’t bother me so much that you are wrong according to the research shared on websites like “Our World In Data,” but rather what concerns me is that your misinformation is making you overly pessimistic.

That lack of optimism is not only detrimental to your own health and well-being, but also to our collective well-being.

This direness of this situation came to a head for me a few days ago when I was with several highly educated, intelligent family members who were discussing the state of the world. “How long do you think humanity will last?” they asked each other.

The common response surprised and alarmed me. These were smart folks who held what I considered to be an overly bleak, fatalistic and pessimistic view of our future.

I started to examine the problem. We know too much bad news and not enough good news (yes, we can blame the media to some extent) which gives most of us an inaccurate view of the world and of humanity.

Also, most of us have lived no more than six to nine decades. We have a skewed view of humanity’s progress because we’re not looking back over the course of even a couple of hundred years.

In short if we looked at the global data Max Roser and his team of researchers have compiled, we would see that the world is an extraordinarily better place than it was just a couple of centuries ago. We are richer, healthier, less violent, more democratic (to name just a few areas of progress).

Let me give you a quick sense of what I mean.

I was born in 1950. In that year 75 percent of the world was living in extreme poverty. In 1981 when we were raising our children, 44 percent of the world was in extreme poverty. In 2015 when our first grandchild was seven, less than 10 percent of the world was in extreme poverty. That is amazing progress.

Don’t misunderstand me, there is still work to do; but that’s big, relatively fast progress. We CAN tackle global problems and make a difference. We are already doing it.

Two hundred years ago my ancestors could not read — only a tiny elite could. Now 8 out of 10 people can read and write.

That’s important because a huge number of better educated people have an increased chance of successfully tackling big problems.

Not only that, but more educated people tend to make more money and have fewer children. Population growth is quickly coming to an end, according to Roser.

And let’s not forget that the hole in the ozone layer is recovering surprisingly quickly due to a ban on harmful chemicals. That’s just a little bit of the good news we could find if we looked at the long-term data.

Why does it matter that we are more optimistic? Optimism is linked to a tremendous number of desirable outcomes.

I recently read a blog that listed 45 benefits including better health, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increased productivity, perseverance, less stress, lower anxiety, less depression and increased happiness.

At the top of the optimism benefits list, for me, is resilience. To bounce back from failure and be hardy folks who can take on the world, we need a healthy dose of optimism.

Don’t misunderstand optimism. It’s not about ignoring reality, nor being optimistic in the extreme. People with a healthy dose of optimism, do see what’s wrong, but they don’t get stuck there. They keep looking around. They see what’s possible.

If you want more optimism in your life, here are a few ideas.

First hang out with more optimistic people. Hanging out with people you want to be like is a good strategy across the board and it’s useful also for optimism.

Look for silver linings and opportunity in every difficult situation. This is not about suppressing your negative feelings when life doesn’t give you what you want. It is about, however, getting creative, taking a different perspective, and, yes — making lemonade out of lemons.

Don’t take things personally — don’t see problems as permanent, nor pervasive if they are not.

Most of the time, a bad situation is not all about us being an idiot. Yes, we may have had a role, but other factors were also involved. Maybe we didn’t get the job we wanted, but we can try again. Yes, we have arthritis in one foot, but the other one is fine and so are our hands, knees and arms.

Catch your negative thoughts, emotions, worst scenarios and catastrophizing. Write them down. Then dispute them. Look for different news, different ways of thinking about the news, and consider what the best scenarios might be. Consider what is most likely after you have more information and evidence.

This October give up getting spooked by news of terrorism, nuclear weapons, social unrest, the opioid epidemic, xenophobia, recessions and all that you will see headlined in the usual news.

Devote the ghoulish month to what it was actually first meant to be — a celebration of light overcoming the darkness. Make October the month to develop a healthy amount of optimism.

Hang out with those who see possibilities, see silver linings, realize that we can make progress on our problems because most of them are not permanent and pervasive and we are not hopeless.

Especially make it a point to find the good news. Take the long view. You can start by examining the website ourworldindata.org.

How might you build your healthy optimism and move up to the Good Life?

June Darling, Ph.D. can be contacted at drjunedarling1@gmail.com; website: www.summitgroupresources.com. Her bio and many of her books can be found at amazon.com/author/junedarling.

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