Negative news is inevitably all around us. We can’t escape the nightly reports of overseas wars, the newspaper headlines about local crime, the constant reminders of traffic accidents on our commutes to work, or the devastating stories of natural disasters that seem to occur in some corner of the globe on a weekly basis. It is sad but true that, nowadays, uplifting news stories are indeed anomalies. Bad news sells.
However, what we perhaps don’t notice is the tremendous impact that hearing just a few minutes of negative news can have on our attitudes, our workdays, our happiness, and our lives – and, likewise, the power of positivity, as well. Recent studies have aimed to shed light on the contagiousness of negativity and the ways in which our surroundings impact our stress levels and overall productivity – and the results were astounding.
In a Harvard Business Review and Huffington Post study, 110 participants were randomly chosen to either watch three minutes of negative news stories to start their days, or three minutes of solution-focused reports (i.e., stories of resilience, hard work, and achievement, such as the tale of inner city kids working hard to achieve success in school or an elderly man earning his GED after multiple failed attempts). Six hours later, in the middle of their work days, participants were asked to report on psychology metrics such as stress and mood. Amazingly, those who watched the negative news stories were 27% more likely to report their day as “unhappy.” Those who witnessed uplifting stories reported having a good day a whopping 88% of the time.
So, why does hearing adverse news broadcasts so severely damage our work performance? Researchers believe it is due to the fact that hearing such news stories can cause some people to transfer the despair of global events to feelings of hopelessness and learned helplessness in their own lives. One conscious alternative we can take to fight this is to believe that we can make a difference, and then turn that belief into fact. We may not be able to eradicate the bad news of the world, but we can take an active role through donating to those less fortunate, obtaining a community leadership role, or simply volunteering time. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 63.4 million Americans volunteer in a given year to help their communities, producing more than 8 billion volunteer hours, which has an estimated dollar value of $169 billion. Worldwide, if the number of people volunteering formed a country, it’d be the 9th largest in the world. Together, we can make a difference, but often the news doesn’t highlight the positive as much as it does the negative. (Click here to see how we at Assessment+ give back to get some ideas of your own)
Besides doing good, there is also a way to attempt to escape – or at least limit – the lasting effects that hearing such pessimistic news can bestow. One company is setting a standard: At Nationwide Brokerage Solutions, employees begin their days with a “huddle” filled with positive news. With a few other changes centered around positive psychology research, Nationwide has had an increase in gross revenues from $600 to $900 million and a 237% increase in applications in a single year. Although it seems as though these changes could be attributable to mere correlation rather than actual causation, president Gary Baker attributes the corporation’s monetary success to an overall improved workplace environment and way of thinking at Nationwide.
After all, an overall improved environment and more positive organizational culture has lasting impacts on human capital, earnings, and the entire future of a company’s success. Forbes reported on one ten-year study that found that companies that possessed an improved, engaged culture also experienced:
- 65% greater share-price increase
- 26% less employee turnover
- 100% more unsolicited employment applications
- 20% less absenteeism
- 15% greater employee productivity
- 30% greater customer satisfaction levels.
So how can you personally do the same to start your day on the right side of the bed? Turn the radio to uplifting music rather than the AM station – or turn it off completely and learn to be content in silence! Turn off push notifications or log off of Twitter; the most important news will make its way to you eventually. Try meditation or yoga or a new, emotionally beneficial routine. Seek out the positive, transformative news stories that exist; websites such as Sunny Skyz and the “Good News” portion of the Huffington Post focus on reporting only the most uplifting stories to get you in a better mood.
The key takeaway from all of this is the lasting impact of morning news stories. We all know that a happy or sad story can influence our temperament in the moment. What we often neglect are the underlying aftereffects that can improve or hinder our stress levels, dispositions, and, thus, productivity levels for the remainder of the day! It IS possible to stay knowledgeable and stay positive, and individuals and companies alike must make a conscious effort to avoid letting the news dictate their lives.