Man, if you’re obsessed with news channels, it’s hard to see the good in life.
I personally stopped watching the news on a regular basis many years ago, with the exception of CBS Sunday Morning, which is the NPR-of-TV to me (and even that I only catch once every few weeks).
You would think I was blissfully ignorant about the world’s issues, but oddly enough I’m not. I manage to keep up thanks to the overwhelming array of options now available all day long from millions of sources (a few that are quite credible) other than network news channels.
For a variety of reasons, my natural state-of-being earlier in my life (teen and early adulthood) was not bliss or happiness or anything like that. It was darkness, drama, and depression with a dose of alcoholism and addiction to secure that state of being.
I ditched the drugs and alcohol over a quarter-century ago, but it took years to move my thinking to a higher level-less doom, more aha! That darkness always looms nearby and attempts to drag me back to the mental gates of hell. I rarely go there these days, but won’t lie and say I never do, but the visits are shorter and far less intense.
One recent morning, I became acutely aware that I had a sense of impending good.
I actually argued with myself about it-really? not a sense of impending doom?-because between the new tick-borne disease that can kill you, Antarctica melting and unprecedented species extinctions one could easily feel doomed. Nope. I felt like something awesome was about to blossom. And yes, it’s almost summer and it’s easy to feel a little giddy with a head full of pollen and flowers perking up all over.
I realized part of my perspective was a choice. Like that old Native American story about the two wolves that live within us-one is dark and vicious and the other gentle and loving. The one that rules us is the one we feed…much like my busy and quirky mind, which I’ve been retraining for many years to quit ruminating on the negative stuff and focus as much as possible on the good stuff.
When I’m conscious, this practice can pull me out of any funk, but it isn’t always so easy to be conscious! Hence a daily practice of prayer and meditation and always, always, always working on being more mindful.
Most days I look around me or in the new world community of Facebook and social media and while there are a few legitimate sad and tragic stories, I’m lifted by the many inspiring stories of triumph over that impending doom. Man, I love seeing people loving each other and respecting animals and the earth so creatively, so brilliantly.
Here are 10 things I do to help me see good in almost anything…
If you want to observe your thoughts and bring your awareness to exactly how your mind operates, meditation is the answer. I know, meditation is supposed to be the antidote to thinking, but the reality is that most of us spend the first few minutes of any meditation session stumbling around in our head bumping into thoughts. Brilliant stuff like, “I’ve got to weed that garden,” “Why is my dog so crazy?” “I hate that perfume Sherry is wearing. It makes me nauseous.”
With practice, you can use that type of observational method to begin to see your thoughts and pay special attention to how often the thoughts are negative, fear-based, judgmental, shaming, self-abusive, etc. At first, it will seem like most of it is bad. DON’T JUDGE YOURSELF, just observe. Then you can work on changing it.
2. Just Say No to Negativity
I implemented a quirky, but effective practice years ago that works. When I note a nasty thought or image float through my head, I say (in my head and sometimes out loud), “cancel, cancel, cancel,” which literally wakes me up from whatever dark daydream I was in and then I move into the affirmative mode, stating clearly some affirmation that helps to re-direct that original thought pathway.
For instance, if I’m driving and I worry about getting tangled up with a big truck that’s up ahead (and my mind can be extremely creative and graphic and scary), and I start to imagine what that might look like, I generally catch myself and yell (in my head or out loud) “cancel, cancel, cancel,” and quickly replace the thought with an affirmation like, “thank you god/universe/goddess/spirit/whatever for guiding me safely on the highway.”
There’s nothing that works better on shifting my attitude from gloom to bloom than gratitude. I’ve developed a practice of mentally listing things I’m grateful for during especially stressful moments or sometimes just for fun. I did this once in a lengthy MRI using the alphabet, A – I’m grateful for organic apples, and my friend Annie . . . B – Betty, beauty, bees, etc. Sometimes I write it down, which is also quite helpful. Focusing my attention on gratitude brings about a nearly immediate energy shift, and whatever seemed so awful, tends to become a more manageable beast.
4. Look for the Good
I set my intention in my morning prayer and meditation to find the good and see it around me. And guess what? I do see it!
I’m thoroughly convinced there’s good in everyone and every situation no matter how awful and bleak it may appear. Not that the silver-lining reveals itself right away all the time, but for the most part, I’ve trained my mind to hunt down something good in everything like a bloodhound on a scent. It’s almost like a game.
Yes, I’ve become one of those annoying people that almost always finds a unique way to see something and find the good in it, which most of my friends and family appreciate, but a rare few just find it irritating. I’m not saying I don’t have a process that involves whining, bitching, crying and other challenging expressions to find that good side. Be gentle on yourself. It’s always a process.
5. Looking Back
I challenge you to look back on your history and look for the good. Look for ways you’ve been magically saved from some calamity or diverted from that job or relationship you thought you really wanted only to end up with an even better one.
I don’t like to dwell too much in the past, but sometimes history can help reveal some wonderful patterns of great stuff IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IT. Try reviewing an old situation that was painful or difficult, while asking yourself, “what, if anything, good came from that!?” You might be surprised and it could bring a fresh perspective.
6. Be Selective
I’m a busy green diva and just don’t have tons of time to spend lingering around friends and situations that are a drag. I find certain people can literally drain my energy. It’s taken me a long time to pay attention to my body’s cues, but I do now. If some person, place, or thing makes me feel icky in any way, I minimize my exposure. It doesn’t mean I don’t love that person at all, but I can love some folks from a safe distance or in small doses.
This also applies to people on social media. I’ve unfriended folks who seem to constantly post fear-based stuff or who tend to be negative about other people. It also applies to press, radio, TV, books, and film. I try to be careful about what kind of images and messages I take in. Not that they necessarily influence me on a conscious level, but I don’t need to be terrified or horrified or stressed-out during my time of entertainment. Although, I do subject myself to difficult documentaries if there’s something I need to learn.
7. Take Good Care
For me, it’s a never-ending balancing act between diet, exercise, work, play, etc. I’ve become aware of just how sensitive my system can be (menopause could be highlighting some of this), from chocolate too late in the evening causing nightmares to popcorn making me all weird and jittery (go figure). I learned that I need seven to eight hours of sleep to function well. I need lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t need sugar or gluten or lots of carbs that can literally bring my energy (and mood) right to the floor.
Find out what you need. Listen to your body and pay attention. Everyone is different, so don’t assume just because everyone on Facebook says something is good for you it is! The same goes for our emotional and spiritual needs. Whatever that means for you. Minimizing exposure to toxic people perhaps or more yoga or church or walks in the woods. Whatever it is, do it. When I’m taking good care of myself in all these areas, my mind is easier to manage, and I see more good around me.
8. It’s an Inside Job
I’m relieved and sometimes cranky when I remember that nothing outside of me can control my thoughts, moods, feelings, or reactions to things. It would be so nice sometimes to say, “C’mon! That guy’s a jerk! Can’t I just be indignant and maybe lash out and smack him or something?” But in the end, after all the gnashing of teeth and growling, it’s my choice to react or deal with why that guy being a jerk bothers me so much.
Often when I’m disrupted by someone or something outside of me and I want to blame them for my misery, I have to do some work on the inside. Investigate deeply why that should rock my otherwise awesome world. I have to ask myself if I’ve done something to cause him to be a jerk. In particularly stubborn situations that turn into burning resentments, writing helps. Definitely talking to enlightened friends can help. Bottom line is that I need to not place the responsibility for my peace and happiness on anyone or anything out “there.”
9. It isn’t Personal
Not a news flash, but also not an easy one to overcome. It often seems like everything is about me, and all that crap out there is directed at me, but nine times out of 10, when that bitchy person is actually directing an attack seemingly at me, using words like, “you suck! blah blah blah,” it really isn’t about ME! It’s about them and whatever dark stuff they’re going through and projecting onto me.
Although all the bad news in the world isn’t personal, sometimes it feels very personally threatening. I have to work on not personalizing everything. It’s great to relate to stuff and be part of the global community and all, but I’m just a drop of sunshine in this vast ocean of life.
10. Be the Good
I know you’ve heard it and seen it a million times, but Mahatma Gandhi nailed it with this one: “Be the good you wish to see in the world.”
Seriously, it’s contagious. If the law of the universe about “like” attracting “like” is true, then do good, be good, and see the good blossoming around you.
Listen to the latest Inspired Green Divas podcast episode:
Written by Green Diva Meg (Megan McWilliams) for The Green Divas.
Image: Nicholas A. Tonelli