Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Good News Challenge!

You know it’s true. Throughout history there have always been “bad news” and things to worry about. Before events of the last several decades, there was concern about the atomic bomb and the Korean War. Before that was WWII and the Holocaust. Before that WWI, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, the Salem Witch Trials, and everything in between. Tired yet? There was more. There is always more bad news.

I’m not talking about personal tragedy, the kinds of things you share with friends to receive emotional support, but rather the larger things; current events that you can’t necessarily do anything about. Yes, when we are aware of present-day issues we may choose to take a stand to do something about it, whatever “it” is. Yet, being aware does NOT mean we must constantly consume bad news. When our FOCUS is on what’s not working in the world, when we are flooding ourselves with the hurt and the pain and the horror of it, we lose momentum and the precious energy that might otherwise be used to create good.

When I am bombarded with the bad and the ugly, I feel tired…no…exhausted. I feel drained, hopeless, overwhelmed, stymied. I want to crawl into a dark hole and pull a big fluffy comforter over my head. I know Robin Williams had strong feelings about the state of our world and our environment. I wonder if his tenderness, combined with where he placed his “attention” may have played a part in his demise. He could no longer see any light or anything worth living for.

Imagine a world where we have only Good News channels and what is wrong in the world is being made better by you and I, visibly, on a daily basis. If our children observed us all focusing on what is good in the world would there be so many school shootings and high rates of teen suicide? While not being fed a constant menu of distressing information, would they feel more hope and encouragement? They would still know there are things that need work and we’d all have the energy and stamina to go out there, meet the challenges head on, and heal them together. You would not turn a blind eye, but rather fill yourself up with what is right in the world, like vitamins or a daily tonic. You would spend time outdoors drinking in the beauty of a forest or lakeside. Refreshed and renewed, with a focus on kindness, compassion, generosity, and LOVE, you would go out and plant a forest. (Well worth spending 16 touching minutes here:

Studies show that those who watch footage of “pleasant scenes” of rural and urban environments show a stronger improvement in blood pressure and mood than those who have just exercised. Watching “unpleasant scenes” correlated with reduced health benefits. A positive nature experience seemed to increase the positive effects of exercise. (Benefits of Green Exercise:

During my body-centered psychotherapy training we were purposefully exposed to various positive and negative news articles that the staff took turns reading aloud, in order to have us pay attention to our bodies and recognize the feelings that arose. 60 classmates agreed hands down, that negative images and words create feelings as described above – hopelessness, anger, angst, fatigue, and so on. Over time, too many of those kinds of taxing feelings build up a toxicity of disease-inducing chemicals within the body. Simultaneously there is a reduction of endorphins and other hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system – the ones that cause us to feel calm, relaxed, and physiologically stable. In conclusion, exposing yourself to too much negative news will rob you of the very thing you say you want to do…change the world. Negative thoughts and feelings only produce more of the same.

So here is “The Good News Challenge.” Put yourself on a “Bad News Diet.” As with any diet, you need to stick with it for a period of time in order to create a new habit. For some this will be the same as kicking an addiction. It IS an addiction; one that the media would love you to keep because bad news sells. Find a substitute for bad news to help you through. Suggestions for things I’ve tried: Find a child to spend time playing with; nurture a plant; vow to compliment every person you cross paths with; focus on what people do right rather than what they do “wrong” (since that is often your projection anyway) and tell them how great they are; stand on a street corner with a “Free Hugs” sign and soak up the hugs; print out calling cards with positive messages and leave them everywhere!

Before you begin your diet, watch one or more TV bad news channels for an hour or more. Pay attention to how your body feels. Does it feel happy, peaceful, scared, upset? Do you like feeling that way? Pay attention to what is advertised during the commercial breaks. Are those products and services things you want to support? When you’re jonesing to share bad news ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this anything I can personally have a hand in solving?
  • If so, am I doing anything about it?
  • If I’m not doing anything when I could be doing something, why am I just complaining about the bad situation and focusing on it?
  • What CAN I do about it? If the answer is “nothing,” then what might I do instead? Hint: find a cause or project you CAN stand behind and participate in its resolution.
  • Why do I feel the need to share this negative information with others? Is it so that THEY will do something about it or so that we can be overwhelmed, miserable, and hopeless together?

Start with a week of abstinence and extend to a month, then a year and beyond. And please share any good news on my Facebook pages or pop me an email! Make it like a treasure hunt! There is a WEALTH of good news happening in the world every day! This is how bad news will gradually be healed and turned into more good news…by focusing on good so we have energy to DO GOOD. I’ve seen this work and it happens still.

One more thing. If you are tempted to share bad news with me, I thank you for sharing it somewhere else.