The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started. —Norman Cousins
If you follow me, you probably know I help people focus on the positive and live life to the fullest. I believe that happiness comes from within and is always available to us. The secret to achieving happiness is to train your mind to be optimistic and at peace with itself. As someone who suffered from depression for years and cured herself with the help of mindful self-compassion, I know that mind training does work. You can learn to be optimistic and doing so will change your life.
Sometimes people, particularly on Twitter, question my optimistic attitude. My post, “Train your mind to see the good in everything” received this response from @happyfunstein: “How about starving children in Africa? Would you like a picture to help train your mind to see the good in that?”
In answer to @happyfunstein, I stay informed and aware of what is happening globally, have compassion for those who are suffering and focus on the good by finding ways to be part of the solution to the problems in our world. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but I do know my response to the question: Combat the pain in the world with goodness by alleviating suffering wherever possible.
Other followers are sincerely looking for ways to deal with the global strife. Recently after posting another optimistic quote, one of my followers LeAnn Reyes asked:
“How do you focus on the positive when being informed includes so much negative?”
It’s a great question that many people our asking. With so much violence, cruelty, pain, dishonesty, suffering and negativity in the world how do you remain positive? In our “if it bleeds it leads” media saturated environment it can feel like you’re being assaulted by your cell phone 24/7. The information is graphic, horrific and constant. All that negativity can debilitate you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually leaving you exhausted, stressed-out, prone to illness and depression and unable to help yourself, let alone the world.
Staying optimistic and focusing on the positive is a challenge, but what’s the alternative? Stay glued to the screen receiving news of tragedies and terrorism that undermine your security? My response is to help people (and myself) stay sane and happy in what often feels like insane circumstances.
Here are 17 tips to help you stay balanced and focused despite all the negative news.
- Limit media
Screens filled with negative news are everywhere and hard to avoid. Stay informed with the events happening in the world, but limit how much you view. 10-15 minutes once or twice a day is enough. Scan the headlines, listen to the news for a few minutes and then stop.
- Switch channels
Watch a video that inspires you, makes you laugh or teaches you something. For ideas check out the Good News Network or listen to a Ted Talk. Or use the “Happify” app to help you cultivate happiness.
You may even lose weight. When one of my clients started emotional eating in response to the presidential election, we created a new goal: Watch 30 minutes of a positive e-course every evening instead of the news. Her eating normalized and she lost 10 pounds.
- Stop ruminating
Human beings, especially women have a tendency to chew things over and over again in their minds. When you notice that you are focusing on the negative STOP. To reinforce the behavior say STOP, put out your hand to gesture STOP and/or visualize a big, red STOP sign. Or allow yourself to worry for a set amount of time each day, around 15 minutes. That’s it!
- Choose your friends wisely
While we all have to deal with negative people, you get to choose who to hang out with in your free time. Surround yourself with friends who are fun and positive rather than dower and negative.
- Play upbeat music
When the news gets you down, shut it off and play positive music. Create a station on Pandora that makes you feel happy and peaceful and play it at home, at work and in your car.
Take a media fast. Shut of your cellphone, television, radio and computer for an hour or an entire day or weekend. Fill the time with things you love to do — painting, coloring journaling, yoga, meditation, hiking, reading…
- Connect with nature
Nothing creates a sense of peace and ease like spending time in nature. Take a long walk in the woods, hug a tree, collect leaves or shells or go bird watching. Notice you are in nature and part of nature.
Meditation is a powerful way to clear away the negativity cobwebs in your mind. It doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. Simply follow your breath for a few minutes, repeat a mantra or affirmation such as “All is well” or send loving energy out into the universe. Try this meditation: Radiate light and love.
Pray for change and for people you know who need help or healing. Or practice meta meditation by sending people you know are troubled or suffering this prayer: May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well, may you be at peace and ease, may you be happy.
- Be grateful
Count your blessings and watch them multiply. Rather then dwelling on the negative, be grateful for all you have. Appreciate yourself and those in your life who help and uplift you. For more on the power of gratitude click HERE.
- Smile and laugh
The act of smiling literally makes you feel better and as the Norman Cousins author of Anatomy of an Illness showed laughter is healing. To generate laughter, watch a funny movie or silly cat videos and enjoy deep belly laughs.
- Live compassionately
Have compassion for yourself and for people who are suffering. When you read about someone who is struggling send them light and love. Go a step further and find a way that you can reach out and help either by volunteering or donating to charity.
We are a touched starved society. Human beings like all mammals need physical affection. When we give or receive a hug we generate oxytocin, the chemical of care and connection, which makes us feel happy, whole and connected. For more on oxytocin click HERE.
- Experience your emotions
Pain, difficulties and negative emotions are part of life. Accept this and rather than pushing away difficult emotions embrace them. Cry and be present with your sadness. Let the sadness pass and then move forward.
- Practice self-care
Take time for you. Engage in activities that refresh and replenish you. Eat right, exercise daily, learn to relax and manage stress and get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Sit up straight
Research shows that there is a strong relationship between posture and positivity. People who sit up straight are more likely to generate positive thoughts and memories then those who slouch.
17. Live your best life
Rather than dwelling on negativity as Gandhi put it, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While it’s important to be aware of what is happening in the world, focus on the parts of your world that you can change. Live honestly with integrity, do your best and set an intention to make a difference.
You can find meaning and choose to be optimistic and happy even during down news cycles and stressful times. You can’t solve the world’s problems, but you can make your corner of the planet better by how you live your life and touch those around you.
Stay tuned: In my next post I will provide you with a basic formula that will help you to learn how to be more optimistic.
Vey timely article, Dr Ellen! Thank you.
I’m a political activist and junkie (when not working)….unplugging is hard for me!
I feel compelled to point out inequities, inequailities, biases, and a whole variety of -isms! Due to health, I do that mainly on FB and some political bulletin boards.
I do take some ‘me time’ and have friends I can have fun with. But after the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, I’m going to need an extra long weekend soon!
Thanks for some new tips!
Thanks, Chris for commenting. Glad you found the article helpful and happy to hear you are taking time for yourself. Be well, Dr. Ellen
Wow Dr. Ellen! This is awesome advice!
Glad you liked it, Jo Ann and thanks for commenting.
Hope is something that probably keeps the world balanced and makes it run through all the troubled times. This feel-good article just reiterates that even more precisely and gives out interesting ways by which we can keep balanced and even focused. The article is written in a graceful way and keeps the reader engaged till the end. Our verdict?-A must read for all!
Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
Thanks again, Kirsten.
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