As we enter a new year it may seem difficult to view the future in a positive frame of mind, especially given the current UK lockdowns and increasing rates of the global pandemic.
As the news outlets provide bigger and bigger “sensational” stories, and new variants of the virus are identified it can sometimes feel like we are living in the latest “movie blockbuster” and all we need to finish us off is an alien invasion.
Negative news content sells, but it turns out, it will actually attract twice as many readers. Something that almost all media companies both know and understand. Statistics on the amount of negative news in the media have shown a sharp increase in the last 5 years.
The latest statistics show negative news to currently be at 87% and rising.
And as negative news and threat’s increase, so do the stress related chemicals in our system, which is not good for our health.
Studies have also shown that 48.7% of teens believe negative news affect their age group, and as they are still young and processing the world, this could have lasting effects on their mental health, and seed the future thinking of our society.
However, news organizations are not just there to convey the news, they also exist as businesses and they need to sell stories to readers in order to function. Unfortunately, good news just does not sell. In fact, news outlets that tried to stray from negative news and present only positive news stories for a day, reduced their readership by 66%. Showing that we are addicted to sensational news stories, and the media has done an excellent job at conditioning our response.
So how do you stay positive when all around you is doom and gloom, and how do we regain our conditioned view of the world, well in this blog I hope to provide some insight into the methods I use, and the first one is simple…
Limit your access to media outlets!
Our smart devices, phones, watches, and tablets give us 24hr access to the internet and news media, alarms can be set to notify us of changes in events in the world and because of this our threat responses systems are on permanent high alert.
I personally found myself being distracted in conversations or at dinner with my wife by inane media messages about threats and disasters that quite frankly did not affect me, and yet the moment my device buzzed, or vibrated, before I was even mentally aware of what I was doing I was checking it to see what was going on.
The result of this, as you can imagine was then a tense conversation with my wife as to why I was ignoring her, and in hindsight, why was I being so rude.
So, rule number one, Disconnect!
Now I understand that for some people this is going to be difficult, and you do not have to disconnect completely, but what you do have to do is give your system a chance to recover. Constant levels of stress hormones in your system can be incredibly debilitating to your physiology and mental agility. So, reduce the number of times you check your smart device for news updates.
Better still fix a regular time each day to have a single update, just do not make it before you go to bed otherwise you will take those tense feelings into your sleep routine and more than likely have a poor night’s sleep. I promise you once you have “detoxed” your system from the multitude of threats in the world you will start to feel more positive about life.
Rule number two “Contextualise”
What I mean by this is that even though we read the news some of it may not directly impact you, so being worried upset and concerned about it can raise levels of unnecessary anxiety that will impair your ability to function rationally or think logically. Again, I am not advocating a disconnection from our need for social accountability, however I am advocating an approach of “put your own oxygen mask on first”. Just like when you are on an airplane and about to take off, you are reminded that if the cabin air pressure should fall, “put your own oxygen mask on first, otherwise you will not be able to help those around you”. In my opinion it is the same in this instance, whatever inequality, or social dilemma that you feel you need to support can only be done when you are at your best, not when you are fighting every battle that is presented to you and reducing your support to a series of emotional rants and arguments that fail to articulate any serious support message.
Also, in all seriousness, a social change takes positive strength and positive stamina, which when focused can elicit positive change. Emotional outbursts and reactive rage result in resistance, fear and confusion that dilutes all efforts and minimises any change.
Rule number three “Reframe your world view”
In the same way that the media has changed our view of the world to only see the drama and sensationalism that is out there, we need to regain our control of our “own world view”. To do this we have to focus our minds on the positive things that are happening around us, become your own journalist. Seek out positive news on a daily basis and report it to others, and if you cannot find it in a particular day, like all good journalist go and make your own news story. Do something you are proud of and happy to report on, be an advocate for positive support, seek out positive things to do for your family or neighbourhood.
Now at first its going to be difficult to think of something, and your brain is going to tell you to go back to the old ways of thinking and working, because you know… its easier! In fact, your brain may even tell you your being stupid, or its embarrassing or even weird, but ask yourself.
- Is it weird to be nice to someone?
- Is it weird to complement someone?
- Is it weird to help someone?
Probably for some people it is, but if we all focus our energies on helping rather than ignoring, challenging, or complaining who knows, maybe the social accountability we take for others will result in a reduction in fear and a more positive environment to live.
Rule number four “Be present”
This is by far my favourite rule and comes from a Japanese phrase Ichi-go Ichi-e, which roughly translated means “this moment only once”. How I interpret that is, this conversation, meeting or moment in time is unique and will never repeat itself, even if we meet again tomorrow the moment will be different because we will be different. Overnight things will have changed, our mood how we think etc. So, if this moment will only take place once, make the most of it, be present, extract all of the joy and happiness out of it that you can.
We live our lives rushing from one, meeting or event to another thinking of what we are going to do next and never just enjoying the moment that we are in. We miss so much and concentrate on so little that its hard for us sometimes to just simply enjoy life, and this escalates as we accumulate more bad news from the world around us. Being present in the moment minimises outside influences for negativity and allows us to focus on the positive things that happen every moment of every day, rebalancing our inner mental state and allowing us to have a more accurate world view.
In 2021 I hope you all extract every moment of happiness out of every moment that you have with your loved ones, doing the things you enjoy and finding the positives in life.
To stay positive, you have to search for positive things and be positive in your actions, and when you do, like the pandemic, your positive influence becomes infectious.