As many of you know, I am active on Facebook—most of the time. I enjoy it and not only does it help to spread the word about my blog and my books, I also find it fun to connect with people, stay up-to-date with family and friends, and to learn about things around the world. Even more importantly, I have a mission to share positive and inspiring news with others to remind us all that there is always more good in the world than not. But lately it’s been hard. About half of all Facebook posts these days are about politics. And while I do not tolerate hateful or violent remarks, I still find the tone of many to be fearful, angry and defensive.
So what does a SMART girl do? Some people just swear off of Facebook altogether, which is certainly one alternative. Instead, what I did was sit down and come up with ten things I believe can help me, and anyone who is interested, get through the next four months and stay sane. While they are not excuses to put our head in the sand and resort to “magical thinking,” they do help to keep us focused on those things we believe deep in our soul, rather than anything or fear and fight.
Here are my ten suggestions:
1) Turn off the news—or at least be very discriminating. I know, I know. I can almost hear the protests of some people who believe that if they don’t watch the news, they won’t know what is happening. However, as an individual who stopped watching the television news nearly ten years ago, I can testify that I have never once missed anything important. To the contrary, I know lots of people who watch the TV news religiously. And instead of being well informed, many of them just endlessly repeat the fear and suspicion regularly broadcast by biased news sources.
So, what is the alternative? What I recommend is that you find one or two news sources on the computer that are trust-worthy. How? Google it. What you will likely find is that BBC America is the least biased. Plus, here’s what I found when I Goggled the question about how the polarization of our country is being driven by the news sources we watch. This link, to a study done by PEW Research Center, explains the problem very well.
2) Hang out with Happy & Healthy People. Ever gone to someone’s home to visit and been assaulted by their television blasting a news commentary? I have. It is usually the last time I go. Far, far better to be alone than commiserate with people who are frightened or unhappy with themselves or the world.
Plus, scientific proof now exists showing that the people you hang out with strongly affect how you feel. Called “contagious behaviors,” social scientists repeatedly verify that our social network influences how we think, how we take care of ourselves (or not), our lifestyle habits, and even our political views. Not only are we 57% more likely to be obese if a close friend is obese, but we are also 20% more likely to be heavily overweight if a friend-of-a-friend is obese. You are 36% more likely to smoke if your friends smoke, and 11% more likely if a friend-of-a-friend smokes. Are your friends healthy and happy? Called the “three degrees of influence,” our actions are tied to those we know, and then those they know. It matters a great deal who we befriend.
3) Start a new project that excites you and makes you look forward to the future. Having a reason to get up in the morning and look forward to the future is the sign of a happy and healthy person. If your primary goal is to turn on the television or the computer to see what is happening in your world, your focus is external and sure to be influenced by whatever you see there. Instead, by finding something that stimulates your mind and makes your heart sing, you will be feeling good and optimistic about what comes next. Don’t let others determine your future. You decide.
4) Learn something new. After spending several years looking at the causes of depression and even brain disorders, evidence exists that people suffer when they stop learning and expanding their minds. Like exercise is necessary to keep our bodies healthy and fully functioning, lifelong learning provides ongoing workouts for our minds.
5) Spend time in nature. Last week my blog post explained why experiencing awe and wonder are so very important to us all. Nature reminds us that we live in an amazing Universe with limitless possibility. Want to remember the big picture. Then seek beauty and nature.
6) Exercise. Our bodies were made for movement not sitting, and especially not sitting in front of a television or computer for hours at a time. Any time we feel sluggish and unhappy, it may be because our bodies need to move.
7) Travel to another country. Whenever we travel to another country, it exposes us to experiences that are far beyond our ordinary. While it can be fun and rewarding to go to places that are comfortable and familiar and visit people we already know, the more unusual the journey, the more our minds are exposed to new and different things. Plus, when we see that people everywhere around the world want and need many of the same things we do, we learn to be more open and compassionate regardless of the color of their skin, their religious practices, or their daily habits. Travel opens our eyes and our hearts.
8) Volunteer and be of service to others. Helping others helps us. When we volunteer, or do anything compassionately for others, it gives us the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, and do something proactive for our community or cause. Best of all, volunteering takes our overthinking mind off of our own problems and concerns, and lets us look into the lives of others around us. Ninety-eight percent of those polled by the National Volunteering Network said that participating made them happier people.
9) Find new, fun and creative ways to engage your imagination. Be curious. Be open. Trust that you live in a world that is more creative and imaginative than all the problems that exist. That doesn’t mean you don’t get involved and do what you can when you see a problem. But it does require you to look for the solution instead of covering your head in despair. You might find that most of the time, most problems are simply a lack of imagination.
10) Meditate. If you aren’t already meditating and/or practicing mindfulness, this “season” is the perfect opportunity to get started. Really! As I’ve written about before there are dozens of reasons, backed up with scientific proof, that meditating can keep us sane, healthy and SMART. If you don’t believe me, just Google meditation or mindfulness and discover for yourself. How? Again, that information is available in dozens of places including here on SMART Living 365. But you might want to find a class in your local area. After you get started, you’ll likely discover that meditating with others is a powerful and rewarding experience.
I am well aware that most of these ideas seem obvious. Every one of you probably knows them and practices them on a regular basis. But if you are like me, you need to be reminded that these ideas can free us from the constant barrage of information, news and advertising being forced upon us from everywhere. Even Facebook, which is set up as entertainment, can put us in a serious place of fear and depression if we let it. Instead, by taking the time to work any of these ideas into our day, we have the ability to see the bright side of our lives. For those of us who want to stay sane, healthy and SMART, let’s be sure and practice and share them with everyone we know. Remember, our contagious behavior spreads to those around us. Let’s make sure we are spreading something good.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips you can share about how to stay SMART and sane in the coming months?