The world is a big place and there’s so much happening here that it’s impossible to keep track of every noteworthy moment. Luckily, there are “depositories” that store them so we can catch up.
Take the subreddit r/BeAmazed, for example. It unites over 3.2 million members, and they’re constantly sharing content that moves them the most. From animals and traveling to history and sports, these folks touch upon a huge variety of subjects and since the inception of the community in 2015, they have collected quite the archive.
When we at Bored Panda stumbled upon it, we immediately knew that you, our dear readers, would appreciate it as much as we did, so without further ado, continue scrolling and check out a collection of r/BeAmazed’s most popular posts.
These pictures might seem trivial, but taking a break from the negativity around us can do a lot of good to our mental well-being.
According to Austin Perlmutter, M.D., who is a board-certified internal medicine physician and focuses on helping others to improve decision-making and quality of life, it doesn’t take many news reports to end up believing that the world is rapidly descending into disaster and chaos, even though many aspects of life have improved dramatically over the last few decades.
“Exposure to consistent, sensationalized pessimism and negativity has become the norm for those keeping up with the news,” Perlmutter wrote.
“While negative news may influence our thinking through multiple mechanisms, one important consideration is how it interfaces with our cognitive biases, keeping our focus on everything that’s going wrong while blinding us to all the good things around us,” Perlmutter explained.
The doctor provided three specific cognitive biases that are activated by negative news to keep us unhappy and advice on how to start making changes to break the cycle:
1. Negativity bias doesn’t allow us to turn off negative news.
“Negativity bias refers to the fact that humans focus on negative events, information, or emotions more than their positive counterparts. In more dangerous times, this bias may have provided an evolutionary benefit (e.g., we were more likely to notice potential threats to our safety). But in the modern world, our preference for the negative has been harnessed to keep our attention,” Perlmutter said.
This helps explain why the news consistently emphasizes stories on the worst things happening in the world, both globally (wars) and locally (robberies). “Not only are we seeking out the negative, but media outlets are actively trying to give us more of it. It’s a double dose.”
2. Due to availability bias, after we see negativity, we overestimate its significance.
“Availability bias (also called the availability heuristic) is the tendency for people to overestimate the importance of the examples that immediately come to mind when considering a topic,” Perlmutter said. “These examples are, of course, influenced by whatever you were most recently paying attention to, as well as the things you pay attention to the most.”
“So if you just watched a news report on local robberies, and then were asked about problems in your town, you might say that robberies were a major issue, even if they were, in general, very uncommon. If you’re constantly watching negative news, the availability bias means your brain may be more likely to remember horrible events and then believe that these relatively infrequent occurrences actually represent the general state of things.”
3. Confirmation bias means that we will find a way to support negativity.
According to the doctor, confirmation bias is the idea that we will actively seek out, remember, and favor evidence that confirms something we already believe. “If you have decided that robberies are common in your hometown, confirmation bias makes it more likely for you to latch onto the data that supports this belief,” Perlmutter highlighted. “Your brain will selectively focus on the information that helps your preexisting theory, ignoring conflicting facts.”
We can also apply this on a larger scale: if you believe the world is a horrible place, confirmation bias means you’ll be looking out for proof that this is true while making it harder to hear perspectives that suggest the contrary.
The first step in reducing the detrimental effects of negativity bias, Perlmutter thinks, is simply to limit your consumption of negativity at the source. “It’s one thing to be informed, but quite another to expose yourself to sensationalized negativity for hours a day,” he highlighted.
“Before and after taking in the news, ask yourself how much you really learned. If you were mostly confirming what you already believed, it probably wasn’t that helpful of an experience. Consider turning off the news when you feel you’re getting angry or otherwise upset. Better yet, try a news fast for a week and see how you feel.”
To lower the risks of availability bias, try to put negative information into context. Consider this: bad things happen every day, but this doesn’t mean that life is necessarily bad or getting worse.
“When you hear a negative statistic … about some recent disaster, you shouldn’t just write it off, but instead try to consider whether this is an isolated data point or actually part of a larger trend. The idea is that if you store new information in a more objective manner, it will give you a more balanced perspective when you later use it as a reference,” Perlmutter said.
Finally, there’s the confirmation bias. With so many opinions and data points floating both online and in real life, it’s easy to find a detail that supports virtually any opinion. But Perlmutter believes this makes it all the more important to create strategies to lower the negative impact of this bias on our thinking.
“One powerful way to start lowering the effects of confirmation bias is to question your beliefs periodically,” he said. “What are the facts on which your opinions are built? For example, after seeing multiple horrific articles on recent crime, you may think your hometown has become … a more dangerous place to live, but have you actually examined any real data to support this idea?”
Challenging your perspective can be difficult but it’s well worth it, dear Pandas.