If you follow me on Twitter (@jailbirdstreet) you might have noticed that this year I’ve made a habit of starting each day with a positive tweet.
It’s a little experiment I’ve been conducting on myself. Late in 2018 I reflected on the negative influence of social media on my life and decided it would be healthier not to spend so much time there.
The negative effects of social media are much discussed, and include sleeplessness, bullying, social disconnection and envy. In my case, I often got sucked into a vortex of negativity and helplessness about all the horrors in the world. Constant stress damages the brain, and I knew that feeding my fear centre all that negativity was keeping me in a constant state of anxious arousal.
I realised that I couldn’t entirely disconnect, as some people do. I need to be on social media for a number of reasons, including for work. I looked around for ways to minimise the negative effects and came across the work of Barbara Fredrickson and the idea of ‘prioritizing positivity’. In brief, her work shows us that positive emotions and experiences contribute to our health, wellbeing and resilience.
““Our day-to-day positive emotions function as nutrients for our overall wellbeing. Today’s positive emotions do not simply exemplify today’s wellbeing, they also help to create next month’s increases in wellbeing.”
Just as we need to nourish our bodies with nutritious foods, we need to nourish our brains and spirits with positive emotion: joy, wonder, hope, contentment, happiness, cheer…and just as we need to make an effort to make sure we eat nutritious food, we need to make an effort to ensure we get positive emotions.
“Everyone is busy these days, so much so that we can become too focused on our “to do” list. Prioritizing positivity means also having a “to feel” list and scheduling in time for activities that you know to be reliable elicitors of your own positive emotions. For me it’s spending time with a friend, walking in nature, or creating a new recipe.”
I had already been prioritising positivity in my day: going for walks, doing things that make me laugh, singing along loudly (sorry neighbours) with my favourite songs…I decided to apply the theory to my social media activity. I set the bar pretty low: start each day with a positive tweet.
I was inspired by an Aboriginal man I’ve followed on Twitter for some time: in the way these things go, I know him as Koori Brotha (@mrngunnawal). He tweets beautiful, positive tweets every day, generating a warm oasis in the midst of the snark and sarcasm, along with a strong and diverse group of followers. Fredrickson talks about creating ‘micro-moments of love’ with other people, and it seemed to me his tweets and the reactions they got proved that it was possible to do that over social media.
After a solid couple of months of consistent practice, I’m convinced of the benefits. Forcing myself to think of something positive to say first thing every morning puts me in a good frame of mind to start the day. The interactions I have are increasing, and I notice I am more comfortable about expressing support, concern and compassion. I also find I’m less inclined to spend hours scrolling the depressing news.
If you find your social media diet is making you queasy, try adding some positivity into the mix. Amplify love!
Read more about Barbara Fredrickson’s work on positivity.