It seems like our country is more divided than ever before. And, with the popularity of social media, everyone has a lot of space to vent their negative feelings without censoring for hate.
All that negativity has me thinking about my health. And yours. What affect will all the rancor you read online have on your body and your mind? If every time you look at Facebook or Twitter and read something that pushes the anger button inside of you, are you damaging your physical and mental health? The experts say you very well could be!
Studies show that positive thinking can do things like increase your life span, lower rates of depression, help you body heal and even boost your resistance to the common cold. However, just as positive thinking can create a placebo effect and help you heal, negative thinking can make you sick. One researcher calls it the “nocebo effect.”
More and more I'm remembering the words of several past guests from my Friday Happy Hour radio Show. They talked about the power of positive and negative thinking. Several guests cited different research that indicates that it takes at least seven positive thoughts to counteract one negative one.
If that's true - or even half-true - cheezLouise, after reading some of those Facebook posts, you would have to spend the rest of the day in meditation to undo all that negativity!
Are you experiencing "nocebo?"
Have you noticed It? It's probably something like this: You're having a good day and feeling good. Then you read some FB post that reminds you that you aren't happy with what's going on politically. Or you read something that is contrary to your particular political ideology. You get ticked off. You join in. Maybe you just hit "like" or maybe you add your two cents to the comments. Then you go about your day.
The problem is, whether you realize it or not, that anger you felt when you read that post will stay with you for the rest of the day. That can't be good, can it? Where's the victory in that??
If you doubt the "nocebo effect" consider how many people got sick this past winter. People didn't just get the typical two or three day cold or flu. So many people got colds they couldn’t shake. How many times did you hear someone say it was the worst cold they ever remember having? Could all the negativity and acrimony in cyberspace and on the air waves have anything to do with it? The people at the Mayo Clinic think so. Check this out: Mayo Clinic Stress
So now it's spring. We’re surrounded by all of nature’s beautiful new beginnings. Maybe it's a good time to take a few minutes to stop and soak in all the joy of it. And then ask, "are my thoughts and words making me healthy or sick?"
Listen, politicians come and go. Policies change. But you? You have just one life to live. Are you loving it? If you aren’t, do something about it.
If it's social media, unplug for a while. I recently had lunch with a woman who did exactly that. She's surprised that (1) she hasn't missed it and (2) she feels better and more at peace.
Maybe it's not all your social media. Maybe it's someone in particular. You can unfriend that person.
If it isn’t politics, what is it?
A couple years ago, my friend, MJ Hitz, was diagnosed with Lymphedema. It shows up in her legs. She wears compression garments all the time and has to wear different size shoes on each foot. There's nothing she can do about her physical condition – it’ll be like that for the rest of her life.
Instead of letting the horribleness of what is happening to her body destroy her, she went on offense. She got involved in getting the Lymphedema Treatment Act passed through Congress. Passing that will be a huge financial help to those with Lymphedema and their families.
In the process of becoming an advocate, MJ went to DC and talked to members of Congress. She's connected with others who share the same illness. They're finding solutions that help make a very bad situation more tolerable.
MJ wouldn't wish Lymphedema on anyone, but she decided she wasn't going to become of victim of it. That's the kind of thing you need to do too.
Twenty years from now, you won’t remember who said what…but your body and mind will still be experiencing the effects of all that negativity. Is it worth it? If you don’t think so, and you probably don't either.
Here are three things to do right now:
- Be proactive about your thinking. Pay attention to what words come out of your mouth. In my SKillBuilder and Victorious Woman Workshops, I suggest putting a rubber band on your wrist and, each time something negative pops into your thoughts or out of your mouth, snap the band. If you’re wrist gets red and sore, you’ll know you’re carping way over the healthy limit.
- Step away from the negativity. Recently, five people have told me that they got off Facebook because of all the toxicity. Unfriending is really easy to do. DO it!
- If you are feeling like a victim, figure out what you can do to get in control. If it’s politics, stop griping and go to a meeting of your political party. Then volunteer to do something…make phone calls, knock on doors, talk to Congress, get somebody coffee. Doing something allows you to get back into the driver’s seat of your life.
Remember: Nobody can steal your joy without your permission. Don't give it to them!