By Marisa Treviño
We are fast approaching February. A month, clinical psychologists say, is when 80 percent of us give up on the good intentions we pledged to improve ourselves in the new year.
Most of us promise-breakers, maybe feel a twinge of resolution remorse for a total of 5 minutes, 10 if we actually spent money. Yet, if ever there was a time to make and keep resolutions, it’s now.
You don’t need me to tell you that the country is changing. We are consistently besieged by stressful rhetoric straining our abilities to discern the truth, see the world objectively and find calm in a country embroiled in chaos.
Now, more than ever, we need to pledge we just won’t be better versions of ourselves in 2018 but better citizens. To get started, here are 5 suggestions.
1. Learn the difference between fake news and trusted news sources.
The term ‘fake news’ got an overabundance of attention in 2017. According to the British dictionary publisher, Collins Dictionary, the term saw an “unprecedented usage increase (of) 365% since 2016,” affording it the distinct recognition as the 2017 word of the year.
But what does fake news mean?
According to a Gallup-Knight Foundation survey, the meaning of the word is mostly partisan. Forty-two percent of Republicans surveyed defined fake news as those news stories that were accurate but negative towards a politician or political group. Only 17 percent of Democrats surveyed believed that dubious definition.
As we saw during the presidential campaign, fake news can be difficult to spot. As a result of how many Americans were so easily duped into believing fake news – remember ? — there are several initiatives underway to help us all tell if we’re being punked by fake news stories.
One effort is the Trust Project. Created to “strengthen public confidence in the news through accountability and transparency,” an international consortium of 75 news organizations created a set of digital indicators known as “Trust Indicators.” The Trust Indicators help readers find trustworthy news from reliable news sites.
There are also browser extensions, available in the Google Chrome store, that can be added to your Chrome browser to detect fake news publishing sites: Fake News Blocker; Fake News Alert and ZenMate Safe Search and Fake News Detector.
A promising new extension, due for beta release in early 2018, is Open Mind. Created by college students, the plug-in goes beyond fake news alerts. In addition to alerting users of fake news sites, this plug-in also alerts when a story shared on social media is fake. The plug-in has a goal of making politics less polarizing too. It analyzes the news a user is reading and determines how negative or positive it’s written, exposing the biases found in the article.
It then also curates additional articles with alternative viewpoints to give readers a more well-rounded perspective on the news topic. Which leads to the next resolution…
2. Create balance in your news consumption Researchers have long known that people tend to read those articles or tune into news channels that reflect their own beliefs. A 2017 Carnegie Mellon University study found that people create their own reality by “deliberately avoiding information that threatens their happiness and well-being.”
But in these times, bravery is needed to combat the onslaught of misinformation. A very important way to achieve that is to compile a list of trustworthy news sources that run the spectrum of views. Chances are you may not be able to finish some articles or get enough of others but you can be assured that you have done your due diligence in gaining a balanced perspective of today’s current events.
3. Be prepared to vote.
No need to wait until 2020 to make this resolution. November 6, is election day for Midterm elections and it’s going to be an important one. You know it’s important because it has its own hashtag: #Midterms2018.
Taking place in the middle of the president’s term, the election is significant because all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested. Not to mention, 39 state and territorial governorships and numerous other state and local elections will also be up for grabs.
If you don’t like what’s happening in Washington, make sure you’re registered to vote. A good starting point is USA.gov’s Register to Vote and Confirm or Change page. The page offers information on state-by-state voting rules, confirms your current registration and how to update it, along with, a link to register.
4. Firm up your finances.
According to the Federal Debt Clock, the United States, at the end of 2018, will have a total federal debt of $24.19 trillion dollars. It’s not rocket science to expect the government to make up the shortfall by asking us to pay more.
All the more reason to make sure you have enough money in the bank for today and mañana. To help get started: check out these financial websites:
5. Be in your best health
It used to be that the biggest stressors in life were work and our bank accounts. Not anymore. A study released last fall by the American Psychological Association found that the majority of us are stressed over — the future of the nation!
It’s no wonder since we are hit daily by a barrage of tweets, partisan rhetoric, and daily fear of a nuclear strike. But it’s not healthy to live with such stressors since stress can be a root cause of too many physical and emotional ailments.
Aside from spending more time with family and friends, exercise, yoga, and meditation are all forms of action that we can also use to de-stress, clear our minds and prepare for a year that’s going to challenge us to be the best we can be.
Check out these sites to get started: