The weight of the world certainly feels heavy lately.
It’s easy to get discouraged about human nature and our society at large at times like these. However, research shows it can be helpful to keep a positive perspective as a method of self-care in order to maintain feelings of well-being.
If you’re searching for a few positives right now, try focusing on the good our species has to offer. Below are a few beautiful, science-backed reminders that humans ― and the world we live in ― can still be wonderful:
1. Human beings are hardwired for friendship.
We crave connection as a species. Research shows that human beings are biologically programmed to seek friendship or companionship. And it’s no wonder: Research also shows that hanging with our loved ones helps us beat stress and improves our mood.
2. We’re also naturally empathetic.
A 2013 study from the University of Virginia found that human beings are hardwired for empathy, or the process of putting ourselves in another person’s shoes. The research showed that our ability to relate to people who are close to us informs our own sense of self and compels us to behave accordingly.
That may explain why so many people come together to donate money or participate in memorials after horrible events. When we relate to another human being and their experience, we go through a process known as vicarious trauma where we feel real pain over what they’re going through. That could inspire us to take action to help out in any way that we can.
3. Kindness makes us feel happy.
Speaking of altruistic gestures, ever notice how they appear in droves following a tragic event? Take this little girl who bought local cops lunch following the shooting of Dallas police officers. Or the people who lined up for hours in Orlando and in France to donate blood following the two attacks.
These acts matter: Research shows that kindness makes people happier and in turn that happiness makes us kind. Talk about a positive cycle.
4. Our first instinct is to act selfless.
While we can be self-involved from time to time, human beings aren’t intuitively selfish. In fact, our automatic impulses are quite the opposite. Comprehensive research on human behavior suggests that we’re instinctively cooperative and willing to act out the good of our social groups, Scientific American reported. In other words, we initially feel compelled in a situation to put others before ourselves.
5. A human’s ability to fall in love is biological.
Research shows there are reactions in the brain when we fall in love ― either romantically or as a caregiver ― making it likely that we’re naturally wired to do so. Not only that, body releases feel-good chemicals that trigger physical reactions when we’re with someone we adore, a response that’s entirely automatic and out of our control. How cute is that?
6. Holding hands with someone alleviates fear.
Yet again human connection is a powerful thing. Just intertwining fingers can be an antidote to negative emotions. Studies suggest that holding hands with another person can immediately reduce stress and fear.
7. Our bodies physically change when we hug someone.
A warm embrace is one of our greatest stress relievers, which is a pretty great characteristic of being human. Research shows hugging can release feel-good hormones like oxytocin in the body and lower blood pressure. Perhaps that’s why it’s so natural to reach out to those closest to us for a comforting hug during periods of grief and tragedy.
8. Human beings are programmed to recover from bad events.
Think about how much we’ve overcome as a society and as individuals. We’re an incredibly resilient species. That’s because, according to research, we’re naturally wired to move on from most challenges and pain either on our own or with help. Pretty remarkable.
9. And if all of that doesn’t convince you that there's a lot of good in human nature, know that dogs are hardwired to love us.
Feel-good facts aside, it’s normal to feel distressed following tragedies like the ones we’ve seen in recent weeks. It’s important to practice self-care during times of turmoil. Research shows that watching negative news can be detrimental to your psychological well-being.
If you’re experiencing prolonged sadness, a lack of interest in social activities or overwhelming grief, seek support from a loved one or a mental health professional. You deserve to feel better.