April 11, 2022 | By Jason Randall
It seems like the world is bombarded with bad news all around us. People seem to be actively looking for someone or something to make them happy externally, but is this the way?
In trying to understand how to live better and take control of personal happiness, Questco reached out to The Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research, Michelle Gielan. She is the bestselling author of "Broadcasting Happiness," a book that brings out the little yet important things people can do to stay happy and positive.
Michelle switched from a prestigious position in the media industry and dived into research. She explains that while working in the media, she realized how many lies the media feeds people. Most of the news broadcast on media outlets is full of negativity and gives no hope to the masses.
After showing the negative side of things, full of problems and challenges, the media doesn't tell people how to create solutions. It has created a system of believing that people's behavior doesn't matter, yet it does and can facilitate change.
Upon realizing this, Michelle wanted to take a different approach to conversations in the media. While still anchoring the Morning News on CBS, she would invite experts to discuss issues of happiness and how to pursue it.
It occurred to her that all the experts she invited to her show seemed to be connected to the field of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of happiness.
The height of the conversations was to discuss concrete things people can do to improve challenging and negative situations. For example, what can a person do when fighting with a spouse over money or facing home foreclosure? The show during that week ended up being the "happy week," attracting so many positive viewer comments.
Michelle realized that media houses could positively transform lives by providing practical solutions to their viewers, but sadly, this is something they're not doing. This reality prompted her to quit her prestigious position at CBS to pursue a course in Masters in Psychology.
For the past decade, she has been running a series of studies to analyze the impact of bad news on the brain. Some of her findings show that three minutes of bad news can increase the chances of a bad day by 27%.
It equates to taking a poison pill at breakfast and still feeling the effect as you return home from work in the evening. A follow-up study shows that if you expose people to the same problems and challenges but show them the potential solutions, they're 20% better at creating solutions.
The findings impact more than the media houses and spread to other businesses. If a business is more positive towards its employees, it's likely to impact productivity positively. A business that talks to its people about creating solutions is better off than one that always points out problems, challenges, and employees' failures.
There's a hyper-charged polarization in the nation, creating a range of negative feelings due to the pandemic.
If only conversations could be about how communities work together and the solutions they are creating, the face of the media could change, and it wouldn't be all gloom when people watch news broadcasts. The media is simply squandering a big opportunity by not doing this, says Michelle.
When people are more optimistic, they expect good things to happen and believe that their behavior matters at the individual and community level. Michelle says that optimism produces three effects:
She also recommends small, frequent habits that help the brain be happier to achieve the above metrics. For example, sending notes of gratitude frequently to different people every day is a way to accustom the mind to the positive. The brain doesn't go back to the same stress level after creating happiness for others.
Sadly, many people misinterpret the success mindset. Being optimistic doesn't mean that negative things won't happen. It only means that a person will be adequately prepared to face any challenges or handle bad news. Instead of being caught up in the problem, they'll get involved in creating a solution.
She hopes people will come out of their problems knowing how strong and resilient they are. Two of the biggest lessons from the pandemic are:
When asked about the Great Resignation, Michelle noted:
The messages we transmit to the world can positively or negatively affect other people. For example, how you greet your spouse after a long day at work is a message you send, either positively or negatively.
There's a saying that "you can't change other people," but the truth is that we are all broadcasters able to influence other people's feelings. 31% of people are optimistic but not expressive. If more businesses can create environments for such people to express themselves, it'll be easier to drive the company culture towards positivity.