Skills for Staying Happy in Trying Times

When we see all the tragic events that happen on the news – especially our children being targeted in school shootings – as well as all the other negative news, and seeing all those commercials telling us everything that is “wrong” with us and around us, it’s a challenge to stay happy.   Add to that the hostility we observe by our designated ‘leaders’ in our government toward each other and a wide variety of other people and issues, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with the sense that our world is going downhill fast.

Realistically, few of us as individuals are in the position to change any of these issues, and certainly not in ways that can help us see progress right away.  On the other hand, if we continue to focus on these things as an ‘unarmed citizen’ there is a high probability it will progressively take our mood down and impair how we are functioning in our lives.

A couple skills regularly applied, however,  can work like a shield, fending off these assaults, helping you put things in a perspective that will help your mindset evolve in a more positive direction, and hopefully become contagious enough to spread to the people around you. These are skills I use personally and have taught as helpful tools to thousands of patients.  By sharing them publicly it just might, over time, have a positive impact on some of these events for many more of you.

First, what can YOU do about the news for yourself?  The first thing to keep in mind about the news is WHY it is news.  It is new, it is unusual, and it is almost always frightening.   Why? Because this is how they get your attention, so that they have an audience and can sell the products of their advertisers.   “If it bleeds, it leads” in the world of journalism, and generally positive news shows have not survived very long at all.  Despite appearances,  really negative news is rare – they have to search all over the globe to find enough to fill those news programs every day, and much of it is repeated endlessly.  Use this knowledge to put it in perspective and let it serve  as your primary defense.  First minimize your exposure to it – how many times do you need to hear that same negative stuff after all.  Second, try to avoid watching it before going to bed at night so it isn’t playing over in your brain all night.  Third, remind yourself that much of this is strategy to sell you products.  Fourth, and most important, remind yourself that this means MOST stuff going on in the world is not negative at all and that the probability for this happening to you or someone you know is really rare!

Second, what can you do about all those ads that are telling you all the things that are wrong with you and pretty much everything in the world around you?  Here, it is even simpler ….  just keep in mind they want to sell you something and they are going to try to tap into your fear center to make that happen.  Let yourself admire their craft – the drug ads are especially good at this because they make all the symptoms vague enough they can pretty much convince anyone that they have the problem that their drug will solve.  But make up your mind that when  you will watch this you will stay aware of their end goal, and also focus on the fact that with so many solutions to whatever the given problem – such as weight loss, for example – if there truly were a solution that worked really well, almost everyone would be using it and be thin.

Finally, spend some time thinking about things to be grateful for in your life, even if you have to get as basic as being glad you are not having to sleep in a cave and kill the bear that is sharing it with you so you will have food and something warm to wear.  Even those things that are true tragedies do have some positive aspects to them if you look at the bigger picture.   I would hope that some of these senseless tragedies help us learn to be more appreciative of our loved ones for whatever length of time we have them, and also make us able to see those people who reach out to help and care just because they can.  Hopefully you can see the need for spreading more love and positivity as a way of going against this negative current and role modeling something more positive for the future.   Hatred tends to beget more hatred, but spreading love and positivity spreads more of that.  We each get to choose what we spread around to others in our lives.

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