Our world seems flooded and adrift in a sea of negativity: loud, angry politics; grisly violence of a mass shooting; mean, trolling comments online.
It can seem overwhelming; all too much to process, to feel, to absorb.
It is easy to shut down and write the whole world off as crazy and out of control. Due to our hard-wired, natural negativity bias, most of us are experts in remembering and retelling negative stories and highlighting negative situations; and the media certainly helps support this tendency.
However, counter-point to the negativity, anger, and fear is Optimism, Love, and Hope.
We can choose what we will focus on: Fear or Love.
The world is also filled with blue sky and flowers and woods; quiet places where one can still hear birds sing; and kind, gentle people who look out for each other.
2018 is off to a good start. Here is what LOVE looks like in action…a community where several organizations collaborate to help solve challenges faced by homeless or nearly homeless families.
Here’s a fun list of 17 heartwarming stories from 2017 (yes, there was goodness if we paid attention!)
These are my favorites from 2016: A world where neighborhoods and police departments coming together for a barbeque; It is one where young black men go door to door to mow lawns for free. It is one a construction worker brightens sick kids’ day with a Where’s Waldo cut-out.
When we remind ourselves of all the good that ALSO exists, I’m not suggesting we stick our heads in the sand and ignore what needs to be fixed or changed. Yet, when we make a concerted effort to turn our focus towards what is good and right with the world, it is the best way for us to BE love and DO love.
Practices to help you SEE and BE a positive influence in the world:
There are numerous positive habits – simple, quick behavior changes you can make to your life to increase your levels of positivity, reduce stress, and help you be more optimistic, loving, and hopeful in an unsettling world.
Consider selecting one of these 3 practices and trying it out for at least 21 days, the minimum amount of time for a practice to become a positive habit.
Snap a Positive Picture*
Since the media has such a hold on us, influencing what visuals reach our eyeballs, it is important to counteract this with at least one picture a day of a meaningful moment, or people, or things in your life.
Make sure to capture the moments where you feel positive emotions like peace, joy, satisfaction, delight, happiness. The pictures can be of the ordinary, lovely moments in your life: a freshly mowed lawn, people having fun at a street party, a sunset, your organized desk at work, your dog tilting its head at you in that quizzical way. At the end of 21 days you will have an amazing catalog of images of all the good forces in your life.
The point of this practice is to help you train your brain to scan your environment for positive moments that occur naturally around you. Since, pictures can evoke emotions in just seconds, even decades after they were taken, photos of meaningful, happy moments in your lives can help you relive these good feelings again and again.
Send Positive Emails*
Once a day, first thing in the morning, or before bed at night, take 2 minutes to write a quick, heartfelt email of praise or thanks to someone you know. Recipients can include a friend, your spouse, a colleague at work, your father or mother, your child’s teacher, the restaurant or business where you received an outstanding meal or service. The key is to tell these individuals at least one way they have made a positive difference in your life.
The point of this practice is to remind you of all the life-giving people you have in your lives. In just a few minutes a day, you are able to remind your brain of the social-support network you do have and puts into perspective the negative news stories of all the “bad” people out there.
Count Kindness Gestures
Keep a log of all the generous, kind acts you do in a particular day. Jot them down by the end of each day. These don’t have to be grand, and can be as simple as holding the door open for someone, or smiling at strangers, bringing in treats for your coworkers.
The point of this practice is to remind yourself that you are, indeed, a force for good in the world, and your actions make a difference. Keeping a log trains your brain to look for opportunities, big or small, to be of service and a contribution to those around you. It will also help you more easily recognize acts of kindness in others, and help off-set the notion the world is full of negative people.
Reaching Out and Broadening Our Impact
During the summer, my yoga mat is a grassy spot on the lawn next to luscious beauties like this one (during the winter is it within view my hibiscus in the south-facing window). Daylillies (and hibiscus) open and turn towards the sun every morning. It’s been a good reminder for me to allow my own heart to open, revealing the core of my own goodness and belief in the goodness in the world around me.
It is easy to feel helpless in a world that feels filled with pain and strife. Yet, the more we focus our efforts on being love, and seeing the love present in the world, the more readily we will step into positive action. Fear keeps us stuck and more receptive to negative influences. When we aren’t operating solely from a place of fear, we can choose to make decisions based in optimism, love, and hope.
Hope and optimism are emotions that fuel us. They are vital in helping us believe any small step we take towards love is a contribution in this world.
Love can be offering the “gift” of your time to another person this week. This might be in the form of time spent helping someone around their house, or sharing a meal with someone who is lonely, or volunteering at a local organization dedicated to making a difference.
When we feel hopeful and optimistic about the future, then LOVE can be financially supporting an organization you know is doing good work in the world. The county where I live, Dane County, Wisconsin, has over 5,000 non-profit organizations dedicated to being a contribution. Likely, the same is true for where you live.
The place to start though is with yourself and how you will choose to BE and SEE the world.
Will you choose love?
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I would love to connect with you. Let’s boost your sense of contentment and satisfaction. We’ll go exploring to find the just-right, easy, absolutely yummy, happiness strategy to add into your life.
Please reach out to me HERE; Let’s have a conversation. It is YOUR time to THRIVE.
*Idea from Broadcasting Happiness, by Michelle Gielan