The Cure for Adolescent ‘Negativity Loops?’ Community Service
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Sometimes teenagers get caught in a seemingly infinite loop of darkness fed by anxiety, social difficulties, and the pressures of growing up in a social media-obsessed world. One negative event shines light on the next bad thing, which magnifies another perceived terrible truth, until a kid can barely motivate out of the bed in the morning.
Teens can find themselves trapped in this negativity loop if they don’t have help. There are several key reasons why.
- Some young people may feel that expressing positivity or showing signs of happiness may send a false signal that they do not require any further support from the people in their life. They fear that the support will not be there the next time they struggle. Therefore, they continue to portray negative signs to avoid false signals suggesting they are “totally okay.”
- Expressing negativity on social media can bring a barrage of virtual support, which satisfies the craving for attention that this type of communication often breeds. Many people receiving this virtual support jump at the chance to pour that same type of support on others, which perpetuates this false counseling. The problem with this kind of support is that it often fades as quickly as it appears, and can just as quickly turn to criticism or ridicule.
- Sometimes, negativity looping is the result of the repeated modeling and examples young people receive from popular media. Critical reviews, negative opinions, and harsh political views permeate the online landscape. If immersed long enough in this, a teen may begin to feel that this type of language is the norm and it becomes their preferred and expected communication method.
How can you help your teen escape a negativity loop? I recommend community service and volunteer work.
Replacing negativity with kindness, thoughtfulness, and solid relationships can take time, but it is possible. It doesn’t work to simply replace negative social media with positive social media. Instead, we must severely limit access to social media and virtual social communication — and replace it with real human interaction.
- Retirement communities and veteran’s centers are great places to hear stories of love, family, sacrifice and service. These stories can help kids reset their personal views of compassion and selflessness.
- Animal shelters help young people learn the value of giving their time and effort for the benefit of other living things without the possibility of return payment or even verbal gratitude.
- Organizations like Habitat for Humanity allow young people to learn how to use tools to build houses for low-income families. This type of work is very rewarding and helps to build positive perspective. It is hard to stay in a negative loop when building another person’s future with your hands.
- Spending time with family and friends or developing a new hobby can help to break the loop, too. Replace computer or device time with guided family discussions or fun activities for kids.
- Get outside! Exercise not only takes mental focus and physical effort, but it gets young people out of the house and into the fresh air, away from the temptation of technology.
- Read. The science is in! Reading improves your academic scores in almost every possible area. Getting wrapped up in a good book keeps your mind active and prevents you from getting bogged down in negativity.
I realize it these recommendations are easy to say, but much harder to do. However, it is impossible to break our children out of a negativity loop if we don’t try. Accepting that our teens are “negative and upset and that is just the way it is” is not the answer. We have to set the example, give them alternatives, and breed positivity whenever possible.
Getting our young people out into the world and learning about other people in a face-to-face manner with real human connectivity is one way to break the cycle of negativity. However, we have to be careful not to attempt to pick apart the things they love about technology, entertainment, and social media. They need to know that we can have the best parts of both of these worlds if we live genuinely and care about ourselves and others.