It seems as though every day, we’re all overwhelmed by a new avalanche of things we’re supposed to be anxious or livid about.
Social injustices, global calamities, tragedies, and all manner of atrocities flood our news channels and social media feeds, as well as peppering conversations going on all around us.
Some days, it seems as though there’s very little to be positive about.
It’s no small surprise that so many people are on antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications when they’re exposed to so much adversity and misery on the daily.
So what can we do to stay positive in a negative world?
The solutions may be easier than you think.
1. Cultivate stoicism.
If you’re not yet familiar with the works of Marcus Aurelius, familiarize yourself with what he had to say.
His writings on how to maintain calm and integrity in even the most challenging of circumstances are as valid and powerful today as when he penned them nearly 2,000 years ago.
Get yourself an audio recording of his Meditations (try Audible or YouTube), and listen for 10-15 minutes every time you start to feel overwhelmed. His insights will help to calm you and return you to what’s really important right now.
This will stop you from ruminating about all the horrid things going on everywhere else.
2. Transform stressful situations into learning opportunities.
Some therapists recommend to their patients that every time they feel worried about something, they tell themselves “I am excited” instead.
This kind of positive reinforcement trains the mind to shift from an anxious reaction to any kind of stress to one in which there is excitement about what may be experienced. (Check out this video for a full explanation.)
Try to see stressful situations as challenges to adapt to and learn from, and try to see the good in them instead of the inconveniences.
For example, instead of freaking out about the possibility of being stuck inside for a month because of horrible winter weather, try to see this as an opportunity to stay cosy. You’ll have a chance to catch up on reading by the fire, sipping hot tea or cocoa.
To stay positive in a negative world, try to see the challenge rather than the burden. As Aurelius said “the obstacle is the way.”
3. Distract yourself with something tangible and positive.
Instead of gnawing on all the things going badly in the world, focus on something positive that YOU can do, right here and now.
Find a surmountable challenge or pursuit rather than worrying about something you have no control over.
Are you devastated by world hunger? Get together with some neighbours and start a local food bank, even if it’s just one of those tiny public pantries at the end of the street.
Are you worried about homeless people being cold in wintertime? Engage the yarn fanatics at the local seniors center in a knitting drive: there will be more hats, scarves, and mittens than you’ll know what to do with soon.
“Think globally, act locally” sounds like quite a corny saying, but it holds true. And by doing SOMETHING, you won’t feel as hopeless and helpless about all the ugliness going on out there.
The adage of “finishing what you start” is also very emotionally helpful. Getting into the habit of finishing tasks is immensely soothing. Even something as simple as domestic chores can have a huge emotional payoff.
You are never helpless. There’s always something you can do to better yourself, your circumstances, your immediate surroundings, and your social circle. Action is a great way to stay positive in a negative world.
4. Stop letting other people use you as an emotional punching bag.
Reduce time around people who endlessly complain, or talk about external events.
You know the types. People who behave like “askholes” in that they constantly whinge about their miserable circumstances but do nothing to change them. Or ask your advice on everything and never take it because it’s not what they want to hear.
These folks are usually very lost. They’re stuck in their ruts, and either they don’t know it, refuse to acknowledge their denial, or deep down they don’t want to move forward, which is fine.
However, unless they are paying you top dollar by the hour, you don’t need to listen to them. You aren’t on this planet to hear the latest gossip or politics, nor to be weighed down by other people’s miseries.
Politely yet firmly explain that you’re really not interested, and try to change the subject to something more positive or productive.
If they ignore the boundaries you’re trying to create or they interrupt you by trying to bring attention back to their own narrative, then treat them as you would any other stubborn mule. They’ll just bite and kick regardless of what you do. Even if you offer them the juiciest apple, they’ll behave the same way.
So just walk away.
5. Get physical.
You may have noticed that when anxiety, stress, anger, and such build up, they are felt as this intangible but very real crackling energy in the body.
If you don’t release it somehow, it can manifest in any number of different ailments.
So work it out. Take part in physical activities that require you to pour that pent up energy into movement.
Yoga, free dancing, and chopping wood are a few options, as are punching bags, weight training, and running. Any exercise that you are allowing yourself catharsis.
Somewhat counter-intuitively to our primal nature we are no longer allowed to simply wander around beheading all that cause us frustration. So picking non taboo expressions to take the edge off is highly recommended.
Healthy acts of creative expression (or playing at creative acts of procreation) are also immensely engaging, rewarding, and satisfying.
6. Try to only consume that which is healthy and nourishing.
You’d probably be quite horrified if you really took a look at the negative effects that different types of food and drinks can have on your personal well-being.
Try to avoid consuming sugar or caffeine in too high a quantity, reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet, and only consume treats in moderation.
Try to embrace a diet consisting of clean water, good quality food, fresh air, and regular exercise. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel after a couple of weeks.
Only consuming healthy, nourishing fare doesn’t just mean food and drink, either.
One of the best things you can do to stay positive in a negative world is to cut down on the negativity that you consume. Do this by reducing or eliminating sources of bad, depressing, and anxiety-fuelling news.
Our society thrives on external stimuli, so just about everything we do on a daily basis centers around reactions to various things.
Many of us spend our days reacting to things we see on our computer screens, tablets, phones, and televisions, rather than reading, being physically active, or creating.
Ask yourself what it is you’re PAYING attention to, and determine whether the return is worth what you are investing.
This world craves our attention and energy, but we require periods of desaturation in order to keep some semblance of sanity intact.
Furthermore, remember that we are what we consume. If we look into light long enough, we may become it. By the same reasoning, by looking into sadness, tragedy, impotence, and delusion, we adopt those traits ourselves.
7. Spend time out in nature.
When was the last time you took a long walk in the woods, or spent hours stargazing?
All the negative stuff that threatens to overwhelm us day in and day out can seem quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things when we spend time in that which is eternal.
If you’re anywhere near the coast, shut down all your electronics and go spend some time sitting by the sea. Watch the endless waves flow onto the shore and then roll back out again. They’ve been doing that for millions of years, and will be doing that for millions more after we’re gone.
The ocean doesn’t care about politics, nor celebrity gossip. It’s not concerned by the latest health issue that media outlets try to terrify everyone with, or which foods that have been touted as healthy are now toxic.
The ocean is what it is, and does what it does without concerning itself with anything other than being the ocean.
Remind yourself that all the human stuff is important, but probably only just to us.
I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its
is endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,
and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the
hard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of light
and untied its knot, letting its musical threads fall
from a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl
– From “Enigmas” by Pablo Neruda
You may also like:
- 7 Simple Steps To Not Let Things Bother You
- 5 Key Ways To Not Be So Easily Offended By Everything And Everyone
- 25 Reasons Why You’re So Unhappy All The Time
- 8 Emotional Self-Care Strategies: Learn To Take Care Of Yourself Emotionally
- The 6 Key Things You Can Do To Find Inner Peace