Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Turning a negative bias into a positive factor


Adults living in industrialized countries spend more than 300 hours per year watching news on television, listening to commentators on the radio, and reading newspapers. That time exceeds what they devote to reading books or acquiring knowledge in any other way.

The greatest part of the information that is absorbed during those hours consists of catastrophes, disruptions, violence, poverty, divorce, vengeance, dishonesty, criminality, incompetence, hostility, complaints, abuse, and decay.

In view of the messages that fill the airwaves and newspapers, it is no wonder that many people suffer from anxiety or depression. If a man is convinced that the overall situation is deteriorating and that he is doomed, he won't be motivated to improve his life.

Should reporters be blamed for the negative bias given to daily news? Is it not true that those are the sort of reports that people want to read? If television news focus on negative events, are they not responding to their audience? If debates on talk radio are conducted in a harsh tone, it is not because this is what listeners want?

The media deliver negative news to those who are thirsty for them. Depressing television programmes confirm the views of those who believe that man cannot improve his lot. Bitter discussions on talk-radio reinforce the listeners' conviction that life consists primarily of conflict.

Dispiriting messages attain their targets with the precision of a laser. No discouraging word is wasted and no gloomy prediction remains ignored. The machine that destroys hope and inspiration works with outstanding efficiency.

Those who love dire forecasts expect to find them in the media. Those who want to hear about poverty and dereliction want television stations to cover those subjects. Those who believe that the next crisis is going to destroy the world expect their favourite talk-radio host to share that view.

Nevertheless, despite the massive barrage of depressing messages, other individuals remain unaffected by anxiety and depression. Instead of seeking out alarming news, these persons read newspapers sparingly. Instead of watching calamities on television, they prefer to devote their energies to improving their own lives.

How did this minority arrive at their independent thinking? What is the key behind their psychological stability? How can we protect our serenity against the negative bias of daily news? The following ideas can help you preserve your peace of mind:

[1] Transform risks into numbers: Most reported threats refer to events that, most likely, will never happen. For instance, every few years, newspapers discuss anew the possibility of an asteroid hitting the earth and killing millions of people.

Such calamity would be terrible, but you should not allow vague menaces to disrupt your tranquillity. Instead of losing sleep over risks, you should transform them into numbers or percentages. What are the actual chances of an asteroid hitting the town where you live? If the result of the calculation is one in a million, how much are you willing to worry?

[2] Set a limit on damages: Companies operating in consumer markets inevitably incur risks of civil liability. If you deliver products to millions of people, an accident will occur sooner or later, for example due to the failure of an electrical component.

No one is exempt from occasional mistakes and this is why liability insurance exists. Entrepreneurs who wish to limit their risks can purchase insurance coverage so that, if the worst happens, their financial losses will be limited.

Similarly, if you live in an area with a high risk of floods, you should insure yourself against damages caused by water. The rational approach to dealing with potential catastrophes is to reduce risks. By setting a limit to damages, you can protect your peace of mind against gloomy forecasts aired by the media.

When commentators predict a stock market crash, you can protect yourself by converting part of your investments to cash or by purchasing other assets, such as gold or real estate, whose performance is not correlated to the price of shares. In general, if you set a cap on potential losses, you will be able to stop worrying about catastrophes.

[3] Face problems by taking action: Uncertainty, more than any other factor, is what causes anxiety and fear. The feeling of not knowing what to do can render you insecure and lead you to make mistakes. Indecision causes physical tiredness and disrupts sleep at night. The solution is not to ignore risks, but to face them by taking action.

If your neighbourhood is becoming increasingly dangerous, you can choose between taking action or worrying yourself to death. Assess the problem and see what alternatives you have. Should you install an alarm system at home? Does the situation justify that you move to another part of town?

As soon as you make a decision, your preoccupation levels will diminish. People who lead serene lives tend to be incredibly proactive and organized. Those persons are always the first to adopt measures to prevent problems.

[4] Use only quality information: This is a key factor for maintaining your peace of mind. Why would you want to read gloomy articles in newspapers and magazines? What's the point of devoting your time to watching depressing reports on television?

Negative information is highly addictive and, without a strong will, the habit is difficult to break. You have to make a firm decision and stop paying attention to distorted news. You have to make the effort to filter out the noise and focus on quality information.

In most cases, you can keep yourself well informed by spending a few minutes a day on a few selected websites. If you make yourself deaf to nonsense and discouragement, you will have more time for pursuing your primary objectives.

Protect your peace of mind against negative news by transforming risks into numbers, setting limits to damages, facing problems with action, and using only quality information. Every minute of anxiety that you eliminate from your life will add positively to your well-being.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Wonderlane under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

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