Food for optimists

For more and more people the unending stream of media reports on failures, frauds, violence, setbacks and frustration has become a source of growing discomfort. But optimism can still triumph over cynicism. A practical guide for those who want to stay optimistic and healthy.

Peggy O’Mara | August 2003 issue
Choose your information sources carefully
Television news is more entertainment than news. Many local newspapers are advertising vehicles and, therefore, are seldom controversial. Beware of psychic pollution. Learn how to put news in its proper perspective. Many of us suffer from information overload and can become addicted to dramatic news with its life-or-death pitch. This is a manufactured reality, like a drug or alcohol high. Limit your digestion of sensational news. Don’t allow your thoughts to become dominated by the lives of strangers and events you cannot control. Be ruthless about what you allow into your mind. Make an agreement with yourself about how much time you will worry about a given subject each day. Stick to it. You will notice a difference in how you feel.
Make your world smaller
The domination of media and advertising can overshadow our personal lives with a bigger, more fearful world. We have to choose which world holds our allegiance. If we really look around our own lives, in our own towns and our neighbourhoods, we see that things are not as fearful or violent as they are often portrayed in the media. We have to trust the reality of our own lives. Get close to your world. Go out walking in the woods near your house or in your neighbourhood. Get to know your immediate environment by getting to know your neighbours and spending more time at home. You will find that a comforting reality exists all around you.
Grow a progressive community
When we feel oppressed by circumstances or by society, it is often because we feel alone. It’s important in tough times to find a community of like-minded people. In the early years as parents, questions about our children bring us together, and these early communities can sustain us through our whole parenting lives. We can also develop communities of people who share the same political, social, environmental, or spiritual beliefs.
Infuse everyday events with magic and ritual
Make meals a time of community and connection with loved ones. Eat at home more. Ask friends over for dinner. Turn washing, drying, and ironing clothes into acts that add order and rhythm to life. Rediscover the smell of line-dried clothes. Make your home a place of solace and refuge. Create an inspiring and regenerative personal environment. You will feel a difference.
Sing and dance
In the most difficult of times people sing and dance. Get some new music to listen to in the car or at home. Better yet, get together with friends to listen to and play live music. Teach yourself songs in the shower and the car. Dance anywhere. Dance in the living room, in the car, while you’re gardening or working outside. Immerse yourself in music, and it will make you feel better.
Choose your companions carefully
In times of oppression and difficulties, it is especially important to keep good companions. Our companions strongly influence not only our opinion of ourselves, but also our state of mind. The dramatic emotions of others can lead us to develop a more negative and hopeless view of the world. On the other hand, companions who have a new sense of things or who talk of life in positive and hopeful terms can help us to feel strong enough to tackle life’s challenges. These friends give us courage.
Lead an examined life
Tough times require honesty and self-reflection. It is easy to take things personally when the chips are down. Increased self-awareness allows us to take responsibility appropriately and to let go of what we can’t control. It is important to cultivate the habit of self-reflection.
Focus on others
Sometimes when we are absorbed by a problem in our family or in society at large, we lose perspective. We exaggerate our own importance. Our problems become the worst in the history of the world. Helping others, especially children, can put things in perspective.
Become an activist
Find a cause that you believe in and support it at whatever level you can. Give money or time. Become a member. Educate and organise others. Vote. Register others to vote. And remember that activism is not about instant success, but about long-term social change. Talk to your kids about peace. While others may wonder how to talk to children about war, talk to your children about peace. Protect them from overexposure to war talk and war images. It’s important to answer their questions openly and honestly, but follow their lead. Include them in conversations about peace and justice. Talk openly with them and others about your beliefs.
Don’t be a victim
Often, when times are hard, we bemoan our bad luck. Why me? Why now? When you can refrain from taking life personally, however, you can act more effectively. Tough times will generate courage in proportion to the difficulty of the situation. It is tempting to criticise things as they are without having any idea of how to improve them. Part of the seduction of modern times is the false belief that this is as good as it gets, that things couldn’t possibly be any better. The wisdom of living your own reality despite tough times is that your everyday reality ever improves itself; it always gives birth to a more positive future. Spend time imagining solutions to the problems you face in your life or to the problems of society. Talk to your friends about positive solutions. Take action to add at least one positive solution to your life.
Keep your sense of humour
At the heart of an optimistic spirit lies a hearty sense of humour. When you can laugh at yourself and the world, you can keep perspective. When you can’t, you know that you need some help. Reach out to others when you’ve lost your sense of humour. Watch a funny movie or do The Twist. We must create our own personal realities to raise our children with hope and optimism. We must become increasingly active in re-creating democracy in our lives and in our society. Our personal lives parallel the collective. Speak with your own voice and it will uplift others. Work on your own life and it will inspire others. Come together with one another and you will touch others. Keep hope alive for the future, for the children. Children are the evidence that love, not fear, is the answer.
Adapted with permission from Mothering (May/June 2003). For subscription information: Mothering Magazine Inc., P.O. Box 1690, Santa Fe, NM 87504-1690, United States, info@mothering.com, www.mothering.com.
 

Solution News Source

Food for optimists

For more and more people the unending stream of media reports on failures, frauds, violence, setbacks and frustration has become a source of growing discomfort. But optimism can still triumph over cynicism. A practical guide for those who want to stay optimistic and healthy.

Peggy O’Mara | August 2003 issue
Choose your information sources carefully
Television news is more entertainment than news. Many local newspapers are advertising vehicles and, therefore, are seldom controversial. Beware of psychic pollution. Learn how to put news in its proper perspective. Many of us suffer from information overload and can become addicted to dramatic news with its life-or-death pitch. This is a manufactured reality, like a drug or alcohol high. Limit your digestion of sensational news. Don’t allow your thoughts to become dominated by the lives of strangers and events you cannot control. Be ruthless about what you allow into your mind. Make an agreement with yourself about how much time you will worry about a given subject each day. Stick to it. You will notice a difference in how you feel.
Make your world smaller
The domination of media and advertising can overshadow our personal lives with a bigger, more fearful world. We have to choose which world holds our allegiance. If we really look around our own lives, in our own towns and our neighbourhoods, we see that things are not as fearful or violent as they are often portrayed in the media. We have to trust the reality of our own lives. Get close to your world. Go out walking in the woods near your house or in your neighbourhood. Get to know your immediate environment by getting to know your neighbours and spending more time at home. You will find that a comforting reality exists all around you.
Grow a progressive community
When we feel oppressed by circumstances or by society, it is often because we feel alone. It’s important in tough times to find a community of like-minded people. In the early years as parents, questions about our children bring us together, and these early communities can sustain us through our whole parenting lives. We can also develop communities of people who share the same political, social, environmental, or spiritual beliefs.
Infuse everyday events with magic and ritual
Make meals a time of community and connection with loved ones. Eat at home more. Ask friends over for dinner. Turn washing, drying, and ironing clothes into acts that add order and rhythm to life. Rediscover the smell of line-dried clothes. Make your home a place of solace and refuge. Create an inspiring and regenerative personal environment. You will feel a difference.
Sing and dance
In the most difficult of times people sing and dance. Get some new music to listen to in the car or at home. Better yet, get together with friends to listen to and play live music. Teach yourself songs in the shower and the car. Dance anywhere. Dance in the living room, in the car, while you’re gardening or working outside. Immerse yourself in music, and it will make you feel better.
Choose your companions carefully
In times of oppression and difficulties, it is especially important to keep good companions. Our companions strongly influence not only our opinion of ourselves, but also our state of mind. The dramatic emotions of others can lead us to develop a more negative and hopeless view of the world. On the other hand, companions who have a new sense of things or who talk of life in positive and hopeful terms can help us to feel strong enough to tackle life’s challenges. These friends give us courage.
Lead an examined life
Tough times require honesty and self-reflection. It is easy to take things personally when the chips are down. Increased self-awareness allows us to take responsibility appropriately and to let go of what we can’t control. It is important to cultivate the habit of self-reflection.
Focus on others
Sometimes when we are absorbed by a problem in our family or in society at large, we lose perspective. We exaggerate our own importance. Our problems become the worst in the history of the world. Helping others, especially children, can put things in perspective.
Become an activist
Find a cause that you believe in and support it at whatever level you can. Give money or time. Become a member. Educate and organise others. Vote. Register others to vote. And remember that activism is not about instant success, but about long-term social change. Talk to your kids about peace. While others may wonder how to talk to children about war, talk to your children about peace. Protect them from overexposure to war talk and war images. It’s important to answer their questions openly and honestly, but follow their lead. Include them in conversations about peace and justice. Talk openly with them and others about your beliefs.
Don’t be a victim
Often, when times are hard, we bemoan our bad luck. Why me? Why now? When you can refrain from taking life personally, however, you can act more effectively. Tough times will generate courage in proportion to the difficulty of the situation. It is tempting to criticise things as they are without having any idea of how to improve them. Part of the seduction of modern times is the false belief that this is as good as it gets, that things couldn’t possibly be any better. The wisdom of living your own reality despite tough times is that your everyday reality ever improves itself; it always gives birth to a more positive future. Spend time imagining solutions to the problems you face in your life or to the problems of society. Talk to your friends about positive solutions. Take action to add at least one positive solution to your life.
Keep your sense of humour
At the heart of an optimistic spirit lies a hearty sense of humour. When you can laugh at yourself and the world, you can keep perspective. When you can’t, you know that you need some help. Reach out to others when you’ve lost your sense of humour. Watch a funny movie or do The Twist. We must create our own personal realities to raise our children with hope and optimism. We must become increasingly active in re-creating democracy in our lives and in our society. Our personal lives parallel the collective. Speak with your own voice and it will uplift others. Work on your own life and it will inspire others. Come together with one another and you will touch others. Keep hope alive for the future, for the children. Children are the evidence that love, not fear, is the answer.
Adapted with permission from Mothering (May/June 2003). For subscription information: Mothering Magazine Inc., P.O. Box 1690, Santa Fe, NM 87504-1690, United States, info@mothering.com, www.mothering.com.
 

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