Sunset

By Molly Butler

Perhaps you’ve heard of humanity’s “negativity bias,” the name psychologists attach to the fact that our brains are wired to pay more attention to unpleasant news.

This bias helped our ancestors notice potential threats. Today, it can keep us anxious, unhappy and hooked on the bad stuff.

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Our feed is just that: feed. And what’s easier to produce? Negative news can be spun and shared daily. It’s one of our most recycled materials. Pick up a newspaper from literally any year. Economic strain. Social and political divide. Something bad happened to someone somewhere. We’ve got problems, and now, if we want to, we can consume them any hour of the day. It doesn’t have to be about us anymore: if something awful happens to anyone anywhere, we can watch, sometimes, in real-time. It’s no wonder diseases of despair are on the rise.

Even our “feel-good” stories are often built on horror: a person pulled from a burning car, a dog revived after neglect, a child raising money to help with medical bills. But, how long does it take to create truly good news? It takes months to grow a child. Years to graduate from school or grow a tree. Promotions and engagements and advancements in medical technology take time. Even I, the accidental expert in cat rescue, can’t save a lost kitten every day. So, when it comes to making the feed, negativity is the most reliable ingredient.

If we want to generate hope and joy, we have to put a dam on despair.

And we don’t just consume it. We chew on it, mull it over, carry it around in our heads and hearts all day. A study found that just three minutes of negative news in the morning creates a 27% greater likelihood of reporting a day as unhappy. It’s like putting on wet socks before walking out the door. We have to stop, or at the very least, cut down. If we want to generate hope and joy, we have to put a dam on despair. This isn’t about denial or carelessness or sticking our heads in the sand. It’s about sanity.

I feel fortunate to share this column with you. This is about the good, quiet things occurring in our community; labors of love and passion projects and opportunities to share something positive with real people. Sharing good news is one of the ways we can combat our negativity bias. There are some more ideas down in the Added Value section, but first, check out some of the good stuff happening this weekend.

Friday

Have an educational day! TEDx is coming to Mankato! Head to MSU-Mankato’s Wiecking Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy speakers, bold thinkers, new ideas and workshops at this first-ever TEDxMNSU event. Cost is $5 for students; $25 for the public. Get your tickets here. Kids ages 5-12 can spend spring break in the kitchen with Hilltop Hy-vee’s Spring Break Story Time Snacks: Virtual Cooking Camp! Make favorite books come to life with delicious dishes and fun activities. Register your kiddos here to participate!

Artists can head to the Mankato Makerspace for Glass Torchwork, featuring two Friday basic color classes from 3-6 p.m. or 6-9 p.m. Stop by to see Abigail Rain’s work on display at the 410 Project from 2-6 p.m. Friday or Saturday!

Head to Armstrong Hall at MSU-Mankato for Early African American Authors & Intergenerational Readers: Old technologies & Speculative Futures, beginning at 4 p.m. This lecture and discussion are free and open to the public, and there are virtual attendance options available by emailing Dr. Jameel Haque at Jameel.haque@mnsu.edu.

Head to the WOW! Zone for High Strung, performing live from 6-9 p.m.

Saturday

Start your Saturday with a good sweat! Join the YMCA for a St. Patty’s Day Les Mills Launch! The Shamrock Sweat will take place from 7:15-10:45 a.m., featuring four classes including GRIT, BODYFLOW, and BODYPUMP! These classes are free and open to the public, all located at the Aerobics Studio at the YMCA in Mankato. Or, head to the John Ireland School in St. Peter for their Luck of the Irish 5K and KidsK, beginning at 9 a.m. Register here.

Head to the library for a Saturday full of fun! Toddler Time & Preschool Pals will take place at the North Mankato Taylor Library from 9-11 a.m. No registration is required for this come-and-go event. Lego Club will be held from 1-3 p.m. at the Blue Earth County Library in the Children’s Wing. Legos provided!

Gardeners gather at Drummers Garden Center for Spring Planting Parties, happening from 10 a.m. to noon, and 1-4 p.m. Register here. Head to Bomgaars in Mankato for a Meet-and-Greet with Mending Spirits! From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visit adoptable pets and learn about how to adopt and opportunities to volunteer. Grab your gardening supplies while you’re at it!

We’ve got your live music! From 5-7 p.m., Melissa Schulz will be at the Mankato Brewery performing covers of pop, rock, county and more! This event is FREE, and all ages are welcome. Then, the Barn Boys will be at Indian Island Winery from 5:30-8:30 p.m. with classic country hits to pair with fine wine and good food!

Sunday

Head to the YMCA Aerobics Studio for your Shamrock Sweat! Tiana will be teaching a FREE Barre class beginning at 11:45 a.m.

The University Percussion Ensembles will perform this Sunday at the MSU-Mankato Elias J. Halling Recital Hall at 3 p.m. Admission is $9 for community members and $7 for K-12. Grab your tickets here.

Get your game on! The Dork Den invites you to play Warhammer 40k Crusade from 5-8 p.m. Get in on Board Game Night beginning at 6 p.m.

Added Value: How to Combat Negativity

  • Start the day on a high note. Don’t check social media or the news for the first hour or so after waking up.
  • Share positive news and ideas, whether on social media, amongst friends or at work.
  • Live in the moment, regularly grounding yourself in the present sights, sounds and sensations.
  • Unless you’re stopping by to say something nice, stay out of the comment section.
  • Mute or unfollow pages or people you find to be sources of negativity.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Do one task at a time.
  • Think about the “why” behind your actions. Consciously consider your purpose.
  • Stop assuming what other people are thinking. Be straightforward, ask for clarification and let go of the rest.
  • Be open to change.
  • Use humor. Incorporate happy breaks into your day.
  • Have a mantra.
  • Be a good friend.
  • Work at our natural pace without comparing your progress to others or forcing yourself to meet unrealistic, unsustainable goals.
  • Go outside.
  • Make note of positive aspects of your life and career. Even if they aren’t newsworthy, little compliments and simple moments of happiness are worth noting for your own sake. Cuddles with the dog, a good meal, a joke, a birdsong.
  • Commit to cutting down complaining.
  • Avoid getting too involved in others’ lives. There is a difference between compassion and putting others’ problems on your plate.
  • Master the basics of your body: drink water, eat in balance, move often, sleep well.

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Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.