There seems to be a whole lot of mind troubling and heart wrenching news in the world today. The world’s current atmosphere can give our minds endless fuel to race, worry, and catastrophize.
When you turn on the news these days, it’s all disaster. These disasters are real, but the stories in our minds that the world is going to hell in a hand basket may not be. Our brains are designed to project into the future and attempt to predict the worst case scenarios so we can be prepared.
It doesn’t do us any good to continue in a state of auto-pilot with a hyperaroused nervous system, spreading worry, negativity and catastrophe throughout our social circle. Not only are our storylines a source of suffering, but spreading these catastrophic stories through our social networks creates an emotional contagious of emotional suffering.
We already get enough of that through the news. The news knows that our eyeballs get fused to the screen at signs of danger and plays on it so it can sell more soap. It’s a business and the bottom line is truly to make more money and it knows how to play on our concerns. This is the same for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox news – money has no party loyalty.
The news isn’t going to make a big fuss about the millions and millions of dollars going into mindfulness and compassion research globally, or about these police officers who paid the check of acouple who refuse to sit next to them at a restaurant, or about the millions of people all over the world quietly working daily to be present to support people’s emotional needs.
But there’s a way to work with this negativity bias we all have and one that can grow into a strength – when your mind races, notice the storylines it’s creating and remember, thought’s aren’t facts, not even the ones that say they are.
This doesn’t mean be blind to the atrocities and problems of the world, on the contrary, it’s important to be very aware so we can wake up enough to make the world a better place in ways that we can. In the meantime, we need to balance our nervous systems in relationship to challenges and make a choice about what we can and can’t do about it. Having your mind tangled in a ball of worry holds no benefit for you, your friends, your co-workers or in bettering the world.
If you’re impacted emotionally by world events (as many of us are), first recognize the difficulty of it all – this step can help you wake up. Then practice self-compassion to soothe your own nervous system, and then you can choose what the next wise action can be. If you feel so pulled practice compassion – get involved in a way that betters the world if you can. Even getting on the internet to research ways you can be a support of whatever cause is impacting you is action of compassion.
To me, the serenity prayer of “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, have courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” helps me wake up to focusing on what matters.
For me, mindfulness helps create the space for the wisdom within to know the difference between reality and story and take action for a better world.
Getting space from our stories is an imperfect practice, but one that’s worthwhile getting into.
Author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion