By Donna Sales, R. Psych.
“…With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, 1927
It’s a delicate balance to negotiate. The desire (and sense of responsibility) to know what’s going on in the world and the need for self-preservation. How do we stay informed about significant world events – as we are taught good citizens of the world do – then shake off the hysteria, vicarious trauma, and catastrophic predictions so we can go to work, make dinner, take the kids to hockey, care for aging parents, and strive to be healthy individuals living meaningful lives.
In today’s world with media images imbedded into our daily lives, we are challenged to create space in our life to be informed about the problems that exist beyond our front door but not be immobilized by the fear, pain and sorrow that lives there. So how do we do this?
1. Know Thyself/Pace Thyself
There are certain news events that impact some people more than others. For some, the atrocities of war are the most difficult to watch. For others, it’s the reality of global warming that gets under the skin. Animal lovers like myself lose sleep over a story showing video footage of farm animals being abused, unable to get the images out of our heads. The same story can affect different people in various ways. We have to know ourselves. What can I handle? What can’t I? How much is too much?
Our news level tolerance also depends on how well we’re coping in our own lives. Some days we feel stronger than others. If we are depleted, highly stressed and overwhelmed, Wheel of Fortune is the better choice over the nightly news (is this why it’s the longest running syndicated game show in the United States?).
Knowing what we can and cannot be exposed to is not about denial – it’s about self-care. We aren’t doing anyone any favours by carrying the burden of the world’s problems on our shoulders. Our greatest contribution to the world begins at home, with our own health and well-being and that of our family.
2. The Healthy and More Balanced We Are the Healthier the World Will Be
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
No matter who we are, where we live, what we do, how much money we make, or what our life circumstances are, we can all make a positive difference. Want more peace in the world? Find inner peace. Want more love in the world? Love yourself. Want more kindness in the world? Be kind to people and animals. Want to help save the environment? Be kind to the earth and preserve it’s natural resources. Never underestimate the ‘power of one’.
3. Just the facts
Critical thinking is our best friend when watching or reading the news. Media is a competitive business and media reports do not always accurately reflect the entire truth. Sometimes the ‘facts’ are even wrong, assumptions are made, exaggerations are made (to make the story appear more interesting or one-sided than it really is), or important parts of the story are intentionally left out. One small example…a local major newspaper published a few stories over the years where I have know the facts and in each of those stories at least one ‘fact’ that was published was incorrect. Innocent/careless errors? Perhaps. Regardless, the truth was not published. Who owns the media sources we access? Is there a personal/political agenda that translates into a skewed story? Take it all in and let critical thinking help make sense of it.
4. Get news from a number of media sources
Isn’t it interesting how different sources manage to slant the same story? We all have our ‘go to’ places to get the news but watching, reading and listening to different media sources offers a wide range of content and opinions to expand our knowledge base.
5. Take a News Break (a break from the news that is)
Try it for a day; a week; or even a month. I know someone who did it for a whole year. We can’t escape the news entirely in our media saturated culture but we can consciously decide to avoid it as best we can. Guilt free, of course.
6. Finding the ‘Gifts in the Rubble’
Journalists are trained to entrench themselves in the rubble and report on it but it is often left up to the viewer/reader to sift through it and identify how we can learn and improve as a society with this new information that has been shared with us.
For example, with research mounting about the trend of global warming – and humankind’s role in contributing to it – most people are no longer denying the reality of climate change. With this consciousness, corporations and governments are being held more accountable to preserve the earth and it’s resources. We already have the technology for cleaner energy and transportation. We know how critical sustainable farming is and how to achieve it. We know how to save the world’s oceans. With less denial comes more responsibility and action.
7. The good news that’s happening all around us
Good news isn’t commonly shared by the media but it’s happening all the time. Spending a full day to looking at the world through a ‘good news’ lens can restore our faith in humanity. We can even be ‘good news detectors’ with our kids, dedicating a day (or other period of time) to being on the lookout for good things then talking about what we discovered later (maybe over hot chocolate or ice cream).
8. Visit Mother Nature (even a city park will do)
It’s grounding. Restorative. Calming. Being in nature reminds us that the most unparalleled, exquisite beauty that exists in the world is that which is untouched by humankind. And that we can find peace and happiness in the simplest of things.
The beauty in this world reins supremely over the ugliness. Love is exceedingly more powerful than hate. Today is an extraordinary day because you’re alive. Jump in with both feet and enjoy the ride.
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Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is www.donnasales.ca. She is the founder of Hope Café.