This morning before I turned on the news I thought to myself, 'It's probably safe to turn on the television. So much bad stuff has happened recently - nothing else could have happened in the last day or so. I am sure I won't be faced with any sadness first thing in the morning.' Boy was I wrong. Three police officers shot and killed in the United States. This is on the heals of the tragedy in Nice, France. And few days ago a little girl and her mother were murdered in Alberta. And so on. Does it ever end?
Wars, terrorism, a contentious presidential race in the U.S. and civil rights demonstrations - it's all a bit much. Even the most positive of us can start to feel worn down by all of this. An American study of 2,500 people by NPR (National Public Radio), The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that "about 1 in 4 said that they had experienced a great deal of stress in the previous month" and that they attributed it to watching, reading or listening to news.
All this exposure to bad news is just not healthy for any of us. If you live with a mood disorder it can be dangerous. I live with a chronic illness. My depression is sometimes in remission and sometimes it is not. Like a diabetic who is regulalry checking their blood sugar levels, I also keep a vigilant eye on my mood. When healthy, I never forget that relapse is not impossible - I do what I can to mitigate that risk. And that means I am always aware of the energy around me. Right now the energy in the world sucks, to put it frankly.
So far that's a lot of bad news, correct? Well here's the thing - there are some things that you can control in a world that seems to have lost it's collective mind.
Step one: turn off the TV. Then power off your computer and cell phone. Don't read the newspaper. Take a break from Facebook and Twitter. This might be the simplest remedy - stop the flow of bad news that reaches you via media. If you, like me, find it important to stay in touch with what is happening in the world, go ahead and stay connected but take a break from it every once in awhile. When I heard the sad news about the police officer this morning, I immediately turned off the TV. I didn't need to hear the details re-told over and over again.
Step two: do something that makes you happy. In my case, this morning I made myself a cup of Kona coffee and drank it out of one of my favourite handmade pottery mugs while I sat outside in the sunshine and listened to the birds; simple yet a really effective mood-lifter for me. Read a good book, take a walk with a friend, hug your kid, make something. You don't need to do something big or spend a lot of money to shift your mood. In my experience it really is the simple things and moments that make me happiest and most content.
Step three: look for the good. Look for the helpers in the world - they are all around us. They just don't seem to get as much attention as the 'bad guys'. I don't have to look very far to find these things in my own life. I have some amazing friends and colleagues who create a lot of good energy in the world. I am drawn to those who want to create and live meaningful, healthy and happy lives. Their energy is contagious and I soak it up.
Step four: do something! Sometimes we can feel helpless in the face of injustices that happen on the world stage. You don't have to be a Prime Minister or President to be able create change. We all have a stake in this and we can each do things to create a better world. Find a local organization to volunteer with, participate in local community events, read books on topics that matter to you. Help influence change. Participating in your community can help you feel that you are part of the solution and that can feel really good.
No, we can't control the majority of what happens in this big world of ours. But we can control our own little worlds to an extent. Do what you can to cultivate calm, peace and gratitude in your life. It may take practice but it is so worth the effort.