Lately, I’ve been asking myself how anyone can keep a positive outlook in today’s world. I’ll admit, this off-grid, homesteading life limits my exposure to the constant stream of news updates that most people are accustomed to these days. Yet, every time I get in the car or catch a glimpse of the news on TV there seems to be another terrorist attack or domestic shooting being reported. Just writing these words feels unnatural and makes my heartache. I’ve found it challenging to be my usual “glass half-full” self.
Luckily, not all hope is lost. (It never is!) I started asking myself, “What can I do to keep all of this negativity from bringing me down?” My answers to that question are pretty basic. They don’t require any financial costs and they can easily fit into a busy schedule with a little effort. There isn’t anything revolutionary about them. They are simple, and effective when practiced consistently. Give one (or all) a try and let me know what you think.
Tips for Staying Positive in a Negative World
Carefully select what you watch, listen to, and read.
This is very important. Most of us don’t realize how much of an effect the news we hear, watch, and read about has on how we feel. Be critical of what you allow your mind to focus on. Don’t close yourself off completely because the world needs you to be knowledgeable. But, find a trusted news source and limit the amount of information you take in each day. (Read more about trusted news sources here.)
Practice Meta (Loving Kindness) meditation to cultivate compassion.
The constant stream of negative news stories makes me think, “What terrible thing will happen next?” To combat this, I practice a form of meditation that breaks my heart open to the struggles of all people. I don’t want to be numb to the sad and scary parts of life. This practice asks you to repeat phrases wishing yourself and all others peace, health, and happiness. Click here to read more about this compassion practice.
Promote what you love, rather than putting down what you dislike.
Have you ever noticed how addicting it can be to talk about things that you don’t like, or things that make you feel angry? When I find myself doing this, I don’t walk away from a conversation feeling any better. I just spent all of this precious time focusing on something that I don’t like. Not only have I brought myself down, but I probably left the others in that conversation feeling pretty down, too.
I have this one life. I can either spend it being angry about the things I dislike or I can focus my energy on the things I love and know to be important. I’m going to choose the latter. In order to do that, I need to be sharing what I’m passionate about and find to be good in the world. Spreading positive energy can be just as contagious if we give it a wholehearted try.
Practice being grateful, and reflect on the positives.
Gratitude is our greatest ally against negativity. Gratitude humbles us. It turns what we’ve been given into more than enough to sustain us. Practice finding things to be grateful for (it’s best to write them down) every day.
Another practice is to focus on the positive events in life (or in the world). The next time something happens to you (or someone else) that makes you feel happy, commit one minute of your time to reflecting on that good thing. All too often, something happens that makes us feel good but we don’t stop to soak it in. Give yourself that time to really feel your own happiness.
Take an electronics break.
Let’s face it. You know it’s good for you, but it is so difficult. We can’t live without the technologies of the modern world. But we can take a break from them. Start small if you need it. Take a walk (without your phone) and look for something you didn’t notice before. Read a book instead of watching TV before bed just one night a week. Even a little bit is something.
Listen to OnBeing.
If you need to listen to something while working, or as a replacement for TV in the evenings, I suggest a podcast called OnBeing. It aires on public radio once a week, and it’s free to download episodes to your computer. The host, Krista Tippett, interviews writers, philosophers, activists, scientists, doctors, various religious workers, and more. The central theme of each interview is to get a better understanding of what makes us human, and how we are all connected. I’ve found so much inspiration from these interviews, and I always walk away with the desire to be a better person. Check it out, I’d love to hear which episode you find most inspiring.
Obviously, if you feel the world bringing you down, you can always find ways to do something to play your part in making it better. There are lots of different things you could do, and the internet is a helpful resource in finding ways to contribute. It’s best if you find an organization or a cause that you are passionate about. I’ve used VolunteerMatch as a way to find opportunities in the past.
I often wonder why I’ve been given this life and not a different one. Why do I live where I live? Why do I not worry when my next meal will be, or if my home will be attacked while I sleep? I don’t know why. But, I’ve been given many reasons to hope. I hope that all people can find this happiness and security, and I won’t let that hope go to waste. I share it because without hope, life would be meaningless.
These little suggestions are my techniques for remaining hopeful, and not giving in to the negativity that surrounds us. They really work for me when I practice diligently. You might have different methods that work for you, and that’s great. The important thing is that we are all doing our part to engage our minds and hearts with the world in an appropriate manner. Because simply put, that’s the only way anything will ever change for the better!