The Think Smaller Blog is an eight-part editorial series that strives to change the world by empowering anyone to take small, yet potent actions in their community. Taken collectively, we believe these changes can add up to make an incredible difference. Check back every Monday for the latest update.

Imagine if you will…

Close your eyes and try to imagine the world as it would have been during the last ice age. Place yourself there if you can. Picture the sights. Listen to the sounds. Feel the wind blow across your skin.

Do you have it?

What do you see?

A cold, barren, and inhospitable wasteland? A world sparse of vegetation and devoid of animals? A landscape covered in ice and snow as far as the eye can see?

Are your surroundings nearly unrecognizable compared to the beautiful blue and green paradise you know today?

If you’re picturing the part of the globe either north of Wisconsin or south of Patagonia, this would certainly be accurate. But would it surprise you to learn the planet as a whole looked — for the most part — the same as it does now?

Though generally cooler and drier, much of the Earth was, in fact, quite temperate. In some places, even tropical. At its most inhospitable, this beautiful and persevering place you call home was still teeming with life and warmth. Life carried on as usual as an abundance of parklands, rainforests, and deserts stood in stark contrast to the massive ice caps to the north and south.

So why, then, did you not see that when you closed your eyes? Why were you standing beneath a grey and murky sky — surrounded by a landscape more reminiscent of Greenland or Antarctica than the plains, forests, or parklands you’re much more familiar with?

Breaking the Illusion

For the most part, it comes down to the movies you’ve seen and the books you’ve read. Since you weren’t alive 20,000 years ago, you obviously have zero objective experience of the last ice age. So those fictional points of reference heavily bias your perceptions. And in the absence of any information to the contrary, your imagination uses those images to fill in the gaps.

The same thing happens when you turn on the news or scroll through your social media feeds. You face a relentless barrage of negativity. Stories of murder and violence, famine and disaster, scandal and greed inundate your every waking moment. It distorts your perceptions. And it can often make the world you live in feel more like the landscape of glaciers and snow you had pictured, and less like the life-breeding haven that it actually is.

It can give you the impression things are bad and only getting worse. When, in fact, they’re actually pretty good and only getting better. Even through all the distressing aspects of humanity’s collective experience, there are still far more positives to celebrate than negatives to lament.

More countries are collaborating with one another than are at war. More people have homes to live in and food to eat than those who do not. Advancements in medicine are emerging at a faster rate than ever. People are living longer. The face of business is changing as a new wave of socially conscious entrepreneurs are redefining the meaning of capitalism. And technology is connecting people across distance and culture more than ever before — resulting in an inherently more empathetic and understanding world.

Things are far from perfect, to be sure. There is much work to be done.  But it is always a worthwhile exercise to search for the good in the world, especially at times when you feel overwhelmed by the bad.

Focusing solely on the overwhelming hopelessness of the task ahead has never solved any problem. It is only in choosing optimism that creativity flourishes and opportunities reveal themselves.

A Better Perspective

We believe humanity is on the cusp of a massive change in the global climate of kindness. It’s a change that is happening fractions of a degree at a time.

The more people take care of themselves, the more mentally and physically healthy the world will be. The more they focus on building meaningful relationships, the happier the world will be. The more everyone strives to find purpose in their work, the more rapidly innovations and breakthroughs will emerge. And the more people strive to understand one another, the less our perspectives will be distorted by fear and mistrust.

As more kindness is spread throughout the world, more kindness will be inspired. And as more people join a movement in support of a cause they believe in, the greater momentum those causes will have to lift people up the whole would round.

We are on a journey to make the world five degrees kinder. We hope you’ll join us by taking steps to make these changes in your own life.

Jake Shapka is the Coordinator of Brand & Culture integration at the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre. He holds a degree in Communications Studies from the University of Calgary and is passionate about inspiring communities to come together to create a world where everyone feels a sense of purpose, connection, and belonging. You can find him on Twitter by following @jakeshapka.