How not to despair at the news

It’s hard to follow the news without despairing or being influenced by it in a negative way. It’s good to be informed but please go carefully with it, as you would with a strong substance. The more aware we are, the more sensitive and open-minded; and the more sensitive and open-minded, the more pain we are able to feel. Unchecked thoughts can easily spiral into cynicism and despair – which are helpful to no-one. These are some pointers which I’ve found helpful:

  • Focus on what you can do day-to-day. Don’t despair that you can’t do more: you are doing your best. All the responsibility in the world does not rest solely on your shoulders. It’s shared with 7 billion people.
  • Don’t let news sites dictate your mood. It can get addictive, and not in a good way. Unless your job depends on it – and sometimes even when it does – it’s ok to miss it for a day or even more. If you want to feel fulfilled, spend your time doing stuff which makes you feel fulfilled, far more often than you do stuff which makes you despair (hello, news).
  • When I read a newspaper, it seems to me that the world is full of terrible things. But when I look in front of me, for the most part this world here and now does not reflect that at all. Do your own investigating, and look for the whole truth. For survival reasons, the human brain has severe negativity bias; fight it with the good stuff. Consider, how many people led good lives today? Certainly far more than people who were killed. Always notice and dwell on the kindness and thoughtfulness which is happening around you. It doesn’t make great newspaper copy, but it’s great copy for your brain.
  • Your life is much greater than the thoughts in your head. As you read the news you imagine the horrors going on in the world. But even if the horrors themselves were real when they happened a day or two ago, your images of them are not. Focus on building up that which is real to you: community relationships. Community initiatives. Your family. Your passions. Your immediate environment. This is your life, and if it isn’t good already, it’s certainly got the potential to be.
  • If you were profiled in a newspaper headline, it’s unlikely that all the positive things you have to offer would be given a fair mention. The same is true of entire countries. They aren’t what they look like, minimised into a story from a judgmental distance – so don’t waste time judging them. Unless they’re war zones, if you can, travel there to enjoy them instead.

So much of the way news happens in our lives has the effect of creating conflict, separation and harsh opinions. Notice how that feels in your body as you read or watch the news, and make a decision not to be led by it.

19th September 2014

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