Be a force of goodness
Over the past year, there have been too many headlines featuring tragedies, destruction and disaster. When I’ve heard reports of tragic news — like I’m sure many of you have — I experienced sadness, stress, fear and worry. With reports of mass shootings, corruption and disaster, it can feel like our world is falling apart.
I know there’s a lot of good in the world. In fact, reports suggest that overall, in terms of global poverty, disease and oppression, our world is in an upswing.
Unfortunately, it’s the negativity that gets much of the attention. We hear and see it so much in the news and on our social media feeds. All of that negativity can take its toll.
According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result. The study also found that 1 in 10 adults check the news every hour, and 20 percent of Americans report “constantly” monitoring their social media feeds, which often exposes them to the latest news headlines.
I know it’s important to be informed. But for our own mental health, we don’t need to overdose on the constant stream of negativity delivered by the media.
Some things are just out of our control. It’s not very likely, but it’s a sad reality that we all have the potential to be a target of aggression, violence or disaster.
But what is in our control is how we choose to act, respond, live and parent. We can be a force for positive change, working from the ground up, taking action each day to contribute to society in positive ways.
What can we do?
Perform acts of kindness
I recently came across an insightful advice blogger — Brandi Riley — who suggests looking for ways to be a good person every single moment of every single day. She reminds us that small acts of kindness matter, even though they may seem inconsequential. Little changes in humanity can lead to medium changes that can lead to big changes. The possibilities are endless, especially if we choose to make kindness
a habit. Kindness breeds kindness.
Performing random acts of kindness is both fun and fulfilling. There’s even research that links acts of kindness with the well-being and health of individuals who practice it and receive it. Make someone’s day. Leave a generous tip, smile at strangers, consider making a donation to a cause you believe in. You might have to deliberately get out of your comfort zone to spread acts of kindness, but it’s worth it.
Use your manners
Short and simple: Say “Please” and “Thank You.” Apologize. Smile. Clean up after yourself. Wash your hands. Hold the door for a stranger. Put down your phone if someone is talking to you. Don’t use offensive language. Be respectful and tolerant of others. And remember, be a role model as a parent. If we all follow the “golden rule” and treat others how we want to be treated, the world will be a better place.
Take action with service
This month we’ll celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21. It’s important to remember how King’s nonviolent social activism helped change the course of history in the United States. He believed that every person could make a positive difference on a local level. His campaigns and teachings focused on alleviating poverty, ending racism and uniting communities in understanding and love.
What better way to honor the struggle, sacrifice and legacy of King than to take action with service to others? We can pay tribute by taking action with the intention to spread kindness, goodwill and peace.
Check out Doing Good Together, a Minnesota-based national nonprofit that works to make volunteering and service, along with daily kindness, easy for every family.
At Doing Good Together's website, you’ll find volunteer opportunities out and about, plus printable activities for home.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. She blogs at kidsandeggs.com.