Although many of us strive for happiness, it is widely accepted that what we can hope for from our lives is balance. A collection of happy times, as well as sadder times and periods of challenge and hard work usually followed by some success and reward. Happiness is not a state designed to be prolonged. This is why we don’t trust clowns - it’s not normal to smile that much!
However, please don’t think us pessimistic. In fact, what we would like to address here is ensuring that balance does not swing too far in the other direction. Towards that of anxiety, sadness and hopelessness.
There are times when events in the world can pull this pendulum far enough to submerge us into feelings of despair. Unfolding events in Afghanistan this week, for example, threaten to darken our mood. The Covid-19 crisis was also an example of this. The news was filled with worry and potential danger and enforced change and, although it was important to keep up with the news, over time many of us retreated from watching the daily briefings to protect ourselves from becoming negatively overwhelmed. We also began to combat the fear with optimism and togetherness. Displaying rainbows on our windows and finding new ways to connect with one another. In the quiet, many of us became lonely but some also found some peace in the stillness and time in which to reassess what was important.
This is where the balance comes in. Hence why, although a knee jerk response to times of turbulence is to not engage at all with the news, we’re not convinced that is the solution. Some might call it survival. Yet, disengaging from the world has rarely given way to untroubled living. Certainly, it does not usually provide one’s life with much substance. How are we supposed to protect and exert our compassion if we turn away from human suffering?
What we believe we need to do is to ensure that we do not allow ourselves to consume too much negative news. At least not without addressing the balance.
So, if you are engaging with the world you’ll likely to be consuming a fair amount of news designed to trigger you in some way. Exactly why humankind is attracted to stories that spark our outrage or fear is a matter for another time, but it is fair to assume that we do. Otherwise, we’re sure we’d see different choices for headlines in our national newspapers. If we approach this in the way that we are attempting to tackle the climate crisis, then we go down the route of offsetting.
First of all, we need to limit our news consumption. One way of doing this is to look at the source of our news. Social media is extremely addictive. Most of us could get into a cycle of watching videos of paint dry if they are seamlessly linked together and the bi-line description is enticing enough. We are also prone to listening to an unwise amount of news if we plug into it in a place we are going to remain in for some time, such as at work or when we’re getting into bed at night. A solution to this is to combine your news feed with an activity such as washing up, getting dressed in the morning or commuting. One that has a fixed amount of time attached to it and also, one which is not usually a particularly joyful experience. I advise avoiding consuming media that might be negative during activities you usually find relaxing, such as cooking or taking a walk, as to not tarnish an otherwise pleasure-inducing interest.
Secondly, we need to offset by ensuring we are also exposing ourselves to positive media. Despite how it may seem, there are many uplifting stories out there and achievements being made across the globe which give us cause for hope. Yet, these often never reach us. We’re not suggesting you subscribe to cheesy positivity mantras on Facebook or create a Pinterest board of sunsets to lift your mood. We’re talking about real messages with evidence of joy and love being implemented all over the world. There are many examples of where to find this, but here are a few ideas:
Positive Media Consumption
Cute kittens might make you smile for a minute but there are a few Instagram accounts capable of giving you real pause for thought. Here we’re including only accounts that can shift our perspective over to that of hope and positivity.
Positivity Present showcases artwork by Dani DiPirro. As suggested by the title, there is a theme of positivity. Yet, what we like about this is that Dani’s artwork and thoughts, accept the reality of the world we live in whilst suggesting that sometimes we alter of perspective.
Positive.News - Whilst the climate reports that grab the attention of the press are, more often than not, the terrifying ones, there is much good that is being done to protect our planet. Positive.News is a magazine dedicated to reporting on the good news and the efforts of people affecting real change which often goes unreported in the mainstream media. We believe this is important because when we are led to believe a situation is hopeless it becomes easier to walk away and we cannot afford to do that when it comes to something as important as protecting our planet.
The Good News Network - is a wonderful online news outlet that provides positive news stories. Most of these are based on science and research that show real evidence for uplifting ideas, such as how physical activity shows signs of combatting depression. The outlet also appears to be willing to optimise both stories of grass-roots organisations and smaller acts of kindness or good news, as well as positive news stories involving larger organisations, such as a story regarding Nintendo proving games consoles to hospitalised children.
National Geographic Instagram - When we focus intently on something that makes us anxious sad or frustrated, it can envelop us. It is at these times that we need reminding of how big the world is and that’s what National Geographic does so well. Knowing that the world is large does not minimise pain and suffering in any part of it. Yet, it can remind us of the power of the natural world and those who occupy it. It can help us to see that power can be both crushing and uplifting and that the world being large does not make our impact upon it small. Instead, it makes it a matter of choice - which is in itself, empowering.
Huffington Post - Good News - Some mainstream news outlets have a section of their online presence, dedicated to ‘good news’. We believe these are worth a bookmark or, when subscribing to the news site, ensure you tick this section to receive this news in your inbox. This way you know you’re getting a balanced update in world affairs.
This Girl Can - Technically this is one for the girls, probably because girls have been more guided to believe that exercise is more for the benefits of appearance than health. Yet, the sentiments of this account are relevant to everyone. This Instagram profile promotes a holistic view of health and associates physical movement and development with increased mental health. Much like Valenson, This Girl Can focuses on the rewards that an active lifestyle has beyond that of physical change.
Aside from assessing our media intake, we can also look at the ways in which we process. As you might have guessed, we believe journaling can be a great way to sort through our feelings and give ourselves a mental cleanse. We’re also big believers in meditation and mindfulness practises here at Valenson.
Mindfulness can help us to connect to the world around us. At times when we are consuming negative or overwhelming news, we can feel trapped in a world that we don’t understand. Yet, when we make an effort to connect and engage with the world in a purposeful way, such as through meditation, being in nature and mindfulness, we are welcoming the wonderful back in. Yes, sometimes the media can awaken us to sorrow, but if we are here for that then we too are present for the beauty. Sometimes though, we have to look a little harder to see it.
Make sure you’re getting your daily dose of good news and positivity.