According to a recent Pew survey, a full seven in-ten Americans feel "worn out" by the news. Thirty-eight percent of us sometimes or often avoid it. It's not hard to see why.
With political feuding at what feels like an all-time high, natural disasters popping up like a terrifying game of whack-a-mole, and a drumbeat of grim stories about how hard it is for many around the globe to merely survive, keeping up with the headlines can be dispiriting.
But while the challenges facing the world are undeniable, they aren't the whole story. Scandals and disasters get the most clicks, nudging newsrooms to focus on the negative, but around the world ordinary citizens, scientists, and courageous leaders are working to make the world a better place.
Focusing on these bright spots isn't just good for your mental health, it's also a way to be a better citizen. Positivity begets positivity, and when you have hope, you're more likely to take action to do your bit to improve our world.
Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put this beautifully in conversation with youth climate activity Greta Thunberg recently: "Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious."
How can you defy your (understandable) urge to just stick your head in the stand? Smile-inducing website Positive News is a good place to start (hat tip to ever optimistic Harvard professor Steven Pinker). The site recently rounded up 20 of the happiest news stories of the first half of 2019 so you can head into the summer on a happier, more hopeful note. Here's a sampling:
1. Terrorism is on the decline.
The world sometimes seems like a terrifying place, but the good news is that one of the most feared types of violence, terrorism, is actually undergoing a sharp decline.
"Worldwide terrorist attacks fell by 33 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, to the lowest level since 2011, a report released in January showed," reports Positive News. The positive numbers are largely driven by developments in the Middle East, such as the fall of Islamic State. Attacks by the group are down 71 percent.
2. Scientists learned to spot Alzheimer's years earlier.
Sadly, I can't report that doctors have found a cure for the disease, but this year they took a huge step closer to being able to treat those affected.
"Years before symptoms of Alzheimer's disease manifest, the brain starts changing and neurons are slowly degraded. In January, scientists from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research and the University Hospital Tübingen published a study that suggests a protein found in the blood can be used to precisely monitor disease progression long before the first clinical signs," notes Positive News. "It offers new possibilities for testing therapies."
3. A Galapagos tortoise isn't extinct after all.
It's been a terrifying year in environmental news, with one U.N. report warning that as many as a million species are threatened with extinction thanks to the impact of humans. But there have been spots of joy as well, such as scientists in the Galapagos islands spotting a female member of a tortoise species believed to have been extinct since 1906.
"The discovery of tracks and feces lead investigators to think there may be more members of the species on the island," adds Positive News.
4. The earth is getting greener.
Even planting a trillion trees won't save us from climate change, according to one new study, but a greener, leafier earth will certainly be healthier and more pleasant. It's even likely to make us humans happier, according to a raft of research. Humans seem to have gotten the message.
"The world is five per cent greener now than it was two decades ago, according to a study by Nasa. The US space agency claims that leaf cover on Earth has increased by two million square miles since the early 2000s, which is roughly equivalent to the area covered by the Amazon rainforest," Positive News happily reports.
5. Scientists got a step closer to curing diabetes.
"In a first, scientists have turned human stem cells into insulin-producing cells, raising hope for a cure for type 1 diabetes. Experts at the University of California San Francisco say they have created healthy, functioning beta cells in a Petri dish," says Positive News.
"This is a critical step towards our goal of creating cells that could be transplanted into patients with diabetes," commented Matthias Hebrok, director of the UCSF Diabetes Center.
That's excellent news for diabetes sufferers who have been squeezed by the skyrocketing cost of insulin. The drug, taken by more than seven million Americans daily, is 90 percent cheaper across the border in Canada.