It’s felt like 2020 hasn’t had a great start. Even before the horrific plane crash this week, a World War 3 hashtag was trending, Australia was/is burning with estimates of a half-billion animals dead, and somehow I keep reading posts that think because we have an extended cold snap ahead, that this disproves climate change.
It seems fitting that tomorrow is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year.
Even for the most optimistic person, January can be a rough time. So I was intrigued by a news article I read this week titled, “Glass half full? The world is getting better, says U of S philosophy professor.”
His name is Professor Dwayne Moore, and he makes a lot of good points.
We live longer and are more literate, infant mortality is down, and fewer people live in extreme poverty. We have more leisure time and technological advances continue to make our lives easier.
The caveat for me in his research, was that he was comparing our present lives to those who lived in the late 1800s-early 1900s.
What about what’s happened in the past generation? Decade? Even five years? Right now at this very moment in other parts of the world??
And this isn’t just for global social issues either. It’s about the kids we see everyday. Because as much as kids are, in some ways, so much farther ahead than we were at their age, in other ways they are also farther behind.
I re-watched Simon Sinek’s talk on “Millenials in the Workplace” from three years ago. It is a frank assessment of young people today, and on what has shaped them.
The four big areas he talks about are parenting, technology, impatience, and their environment.
If you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch.
As we worked through generating topics for a personal TEDx talk in class this week, a surprising amount of kids admitted that they didn’t have anything that they felt strongly about. Not world events. Not local events. Nothing in their own lives that they felt passionate about: not angry, not sad, just nothing.
Which is a whole different thing…like the glass isn’t even there to contemplate.
So why do we feel this way?
Professor Moore says that as humans, we come with a negativity bias. "We tend to zero in on dangerous or negative things because it could affect our survival. And when a good piece of news comes, we brush it off.“ The second reason, he says is a “hedonic adaptation trait….the tendency when a major life event happens, for good or for bad, we immediately react. But then six months later we've reverted back to normal.”
That seems like a sad paradox.
The good doesn’t last.
But neither does the bad.
Another researcher, Sonja Lyubomirsky, has found that ”50 percent of our happiness set-point is due to genetics, 10 percent is affected primarily by circumstances like where we were born and to whom. This leaves 40 percent that is subject to our influence.”
So the glass really is half-empty, or half-full, depending on how you see it.
More emphasis is being placed on ideas of mindfulness and positive well-being, for students and staff, and that’s a good thing. On a personal level, I find that I need to work on this more deliberately now, more than at any other point in my life. That empty-nest-syndrome can feel pretty real some days!
As we head into this cold week, and the Monday-of-all-Monday’s, I’m going to focus on little gratitudes: good hot cups of coffee, a warm house, a dependable car, and time.
That’s always the one I seem to forget the most!
Stay warm everyone!!
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