Jodie Jackson has always been interested in seeking out the positive in life. During her days as an undergrad student she started her own good news website, now she has finished her Master’s degree in Positive Psychology and is working to share her work with others. We met up with her in London to discuss the importance of sharing inspiring and uplifting content.
Q: What was your journey toward finding positive psychology? How has your passion for positivity influenced your life and work?
A: I found Positive Psychology at a time when I was searching for more positivity. I had become concerned and disappointed about the state of the world and the people in it from reading the news. By constantly reporting on humanity at its worst and being presented with threat after threat, I found that my opinions and beliefs were becoming cynical, distrusting and perhaps even paranoid at times. This was in a direct contrast to my personal life experience that was fortunate enough to be filled with inspiring, caring, tolerant and generous people who no doubt make the world (and strive to make to world) a better place. I found it difficult to reconcile this imbalance and was tempted to switch off the news and just exist in my immediate circle without having to peep over the wall to see what the rest of the world was up to. Despite this clawing desire to pursue ignorance as a way to sustain my bliss, I instead chose to look beyond the wall but widen the lens. I created a website called “What a Good Week”, which was an aggregated news site of what I considered to be “Good News” stories that were in the news each week. This was not with the aim of advocating for a wholly good news newspaper, but was to provide for myself the balance that I felt was lacking. What began as emotional relief became something quite inspiring. I was amazed at the wonderfully inventive individuals addressing the problems of the world and finding solutions. I was inspired by the selflessness of others who dedicated time to help others. Reading other people’s successes (large or small) in the face of challenge and despair ignited my own sense of potential and rather than isolate myself from the world around me, I became excited to be immersed in it; I was able to read the news again from a different headspace, a more empowered one. When I began “What a Good Week”, I was amazed by how many organizations were doing something similar and was keen to learn more about the impact this type of journalism was having on the reader so I enrolled in a Master’s degree in Positive Psychology to research the psychological impact of the news. I felt I had to do a Master’s because it was very difficult to get people outside of the field to engage in the conversation; the assumed I was naïve or ignorant and although I had passion, personal experience and opinion, it could only take me so far, for the industry to listen and other consumers to become aware, I had to have something a more substantial that was backed by evidence, science and statistics. I began by looking at the negativity bias and then looked at the impact of more positive publications and have gained a deeper understanding of the consequence and a much greater respect for the power of the news and the potential of Constructive Journalism. I now work for Constructive Journalism Project in the UK www.constructivejournalism.org delivering lectures to universities around the UK, speaking at international news conferences and providing continuing research.
Q: What can we do as people to encourage the media to move away from negativity?
A: It is important to note that a more balanced news media is not necessary created by moving away from negativity, as it undoubtedly serves a valuable and informative function in society. Widening the lens, to include stories of innovation, solutions, progress and development, could instead create a balanced news media. Problem-focused journalism and solution-focused journalism no longer need to be pitted against each other to decide which one is most important, but instead recognize both in their own right as serving an important informative function in the press. Positive news cannot wait to be reported on in the absence of problems because if you are waiting for the world to be rid of problems before you start looking at what is good, you are never going to see it. We need to notice the world’s achievements alongside its failings in order to report on and understand the world more accurately. The research around Constructive Journalism, therefore suggests that news organizations should report on strength as it does weakness, successes as it does failures, human excellence as it does human corruption and scandal, solutions as it does problems, and progress as it does recession.
As news users, we all have the power to create the kind of media we want through the choices we make as consumers - if you want the media to be more constructive in our society then it is time to start reading more constructive journalism. Media practitioners are enormously influenced by the consumer demand. This is where I believe the real power of my research lies as it speaks to the consumer, not necessarily the industry. A reason for the continued acceleration of the news’ negativity bias is a lack of accountability. The media are a powerful instrument in helping wrongdoing correct through investigating the problem and exposing it, bringing it to the attention on the public to put pressure on the issue to bring about sustained change. Whilst the media are a formidable force in holding others to account, they are not very good at turning the lens on themselves. So we ask ourselves who holds the media accountable? We do. My research will hopefully inform the consumer of the psychological consequences of the information stream we absorb so they are able to move from being consumers to becoming conscious consumers. This shift in demand will hopefully create a shift in supply. It is very similar to the change in consumer demand for foods like quinoa and goji berries, with an increase in demand once we were aware of the benefits they have on our health. This demand moved these foods, once saved for wholefoods health stores, to mainstream supermarkets. Similarly, yoga was once considered a hippy pursuit steeped in stereotypical perceptions. However, once the benefits are proven on both our physical and mental wellbeing, 20 million people in the US now practice it regularly. I hope we can have the same shift in consumer consciousness with the news, forcing it into the mainstream.
Q: How can working to heal ourselves help the world?
A: If we, ourselves, are feeling powerless, small and perhaps drained then we do not have much energy to go out into the world and make the impact we would like to. It is important to take care of your own wellbeing, be it physical or mental. I always like to compare these two as we are pretty well educated on how to take care of our physical wellbeing but perhaps less educated on how to take care of our mental wellbeing. Food is to the body what information is to the mind. We must be conscious about the way in which we consume the media and be aware of the impact it has on our mental health. If we can feed our mind with information that is going to inform us, challenge us, empower us and inspire us then this sense of power and purpose may radiate out into the world around us.
Q: You are planning on writing a book - what inspired you to do this and what do you hope it does for its readers?
A: I am inspired to write a book because of the compelling research I have collected and conducted over the last 6 years. It is eye opening and empowering to have a greater understanding of the psychological impact of information and the effect it is on us at both an individual level and a societal one. If you are someone who no longer reads the mainstream news because you find it too depressing, this book should help you establish a better relationship with it where you are perhaps no longer estranged but have a much more considered relationship that is on both of your terms. If you are someone that enjoys reading the mainstream news and think its important to know what is going on in the world, then this will not be taken away from you by reading this book. However, you may gain a deeper understanding of the effect the news has on you, why you enjoy it and why there is still so much more to be gained. This book also extends beyond just the news and includes our social media, television media and even our personal narratives that we retell to others. It is still work in progress for now…
Q: What quote inspires you most?
A: “Darkness can not drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that” – Martin Luther King.
Here is my own adaptation of the above, created through observation of and experience with a more positive outlook on the world and the people in it through engaging with more solutions focused news:
I believe in love, compassion, strength and courage. It takes strength to maintain your belief in the power of love when you see the devastating power of hate and fear and it takes courage to move forward with it, showing love and compassion for those that bear no regard for it to yourself. I believe it because I have seen it - I have seen how great people make great people, how wisdom inspires, how compassion heals and how love and respect dissipate hate and ignorance.
Q: Who are 3 people (living or dead) that you would love to have around your dinner table?
A: David Bornstein
You can view Jodie's video above to hear her inspiring words about the need for positivity, and you can read more of her research here. Be sure to watch out for more of her positive posts on Boomcast!