When I consume too much news it is difficult to convince myself that we’re not at the beginning (perhaps in the middle) of the apocalypse. In a week that saw two mass shootings in the United States that killed 31 people in less than 24 hours, I also heard that multiple countries are on the verge of not having enough water for their own citizens, and that big tech is collaborating with big pharma to manipulate online search algorithms in order to suppress free speech and limit what we can find about health alternatives. 1984 anyone?
It is can be super stressful, anxiety-producing and downright depressing be exposed to too much media, and for that reason, I have limited mine severely to only NPR when I’m in the car, a few select podcasts and daily email news bulletins, and what intrigues me that my friends have posted on social media (only about once or twice a week). And still I can easily get overwhelmed by all the doom and gloom coming my way. I know I’m not alone.
I was walking with a friend this week and she guiltily admitted that when mass shootings happen she doesn’t even watch the coverage anymore. I told her I was the same, and I don’t think it’s anything we need to feel guilty about. We’re simply protecting our own well-being. It is incredible, though, that there is some level of discomfort around feeling as if we aren’t well-informed. To be responsible citizens we have this sense that we have to know everything. I’ll stipulate that it is important to be well-informed voters, and state that it is actually difficult not to be with all the ways that media is delivered to us now. Increasingly, though, it is easier and easier to consume news only from those sources that agree with us, and that is a whole other problem beyond the scope of this blog.
What I really want to highlight here is the power of our own perspectives. Rather than succumbing to the darkness that feels more threatening and intense with each passing day, we can choose instead to look for the light. It takes some effort to be sure, and it makes life a thousand times more comfortable when we seek and find what’s right instead of simply being swallowed up by all that seems wrong. This is true on the individual, community and societal levels. Recognizing, appreciating and giving thanks for all the things that go right every day will make us all healthier and happier people. I will give you a few tools below for actually practicing that.
For years, I’ve been talking about this book titled A Thousand Things Went Right Today by Ilan Shamir because it illustrates what I’m talking about, and yet, I’ve never read it. I finally decided I had to when someone at a talk I gave called me out about recommending it when I haven’t read it (really, I just love the title). Sadly, I discovered that it’s out of print. This slightly cheesy, but short video by the author gives you an idea of the message. Gratitude as a practice has gained tremendous popularity in the past twenty years, and a simple search will bring up dozens of books and journals on the topic. I even wrote a chapter about it in my own book. One of my favorite books on this subject is Jon Kralik’s A Simple Act of Gratitude, in which he describes the transformation that looking for things to thank people for on a daily basis wrought in his own life.
I recently re-watched Tomorrowland, the 2015 Disney film based on the futuristic section of Disney World (but not really). Though it received mediocre reviews from the critics, I loved the message, and give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up for that reason - similar in many ways to the fate versus free will messages that I also love in the films Sliding Doors and The Adjustment Bureau. Finally, this TED Talk by Cleo Wade, illustrates beautifully what I’m talking about, and I’m thrilled that it’s much easier to find these types of messages than it ever has been before. A huge part of the coaching work that I do focuses on helping my clients gain a new perspective. That is all we really need – a new angle from which to view our own lives and the world around us.
If you are looking for a change in perspective, and perhaps an escape from the daily overwhelm, my friend and yoga teacher, Beth and I are leading a fabulous retreat this spring at the top retreat center in Bali (the luxurious Floating Leaf). In celebration of my 50th birthday this spring, I’m also leading another retreat just for cancer survivors in Hawaii in February (more soon).