February 26, 2016

How to Stay Smiling in a Terrifying World.


The world is going to hell in a handcart, and it seems there isn’t much any of us can do about it.

As we hurtle quickly through the opening months of 2016, it’s easy to succumb to that gnawing dread in the pit of our stomachs each time we open a newspaper or turn on the news.

The world is a depressing place. No doubt. Lots of awful, terrible stuff happens to innocent people daily. I could list some of it. I won’t.

But we have to stay happy in these times more than ever. We owe it to ourselves—as much as to our fallen brothers and sisters in worldwide—to rise above the hatred and fear and remain kind and loving with each other.

But then, this isn’t always easy, especially as we’re subjected on a daily basis to a notion of the world and its people that isn’t designed to bring out the best in it, or us.

When all we can see are dire images and depressing headlines, we have to remember that we are only ever seeing a distorted presentation of things. I’m not saying it’s not happening, or that it’s not monumentally awful.

But it’s only the worst part of a much bigger picture.

What we focus on most impacts our experience. So if we only dwell on horrible things, chances are we’re going to start feeling pretty horrible.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore the plight of the world or that we all float about like grinning simpletons and just tell each other everything is fine. Terrorism is bad. Killing innocents is vile and against any god. My point in all this is how we rebel against it and stay happy in the face of this.

We can easily fall into focusing on the bad. It’s easy. But I think we know why; it’s because that’s the way the media have set it up for us.

Put simply, good news isn’t news.

So we need to hold that in mind when we switch on the TV and see through its magical portal into the wider world. It’s a narrative-driven gaze. And that narrative is terror and shootings and terror-shootings. Everywhere. All the time.

If it isn’t ISIS, it’s white policemen shooting black teens. Or disgruntled employees or school kids shooting each other.

But there is hope out there. If we look. And looking for it in these modern times is almost a rebellious act in of itself—but one we should all engage in.

Fundamentally, we need to be conscious of the situation and try as best we can to find balance in life. Get angry at the horribleness, but focus more on the good. Because there is still a lot of good around us.

And most importantly, we need to practice a strong appreciation of the good in life.

Now, I use the word “appreciation” here rather than the more oft-heard “gratitude” for a reason.

Gratitude—the quality of being thankful—and practicing gratitude are concepts bandied about so much in the PD world now that I feel they’ve become concepts we accept too easily without really considering the real messages behind them.

Practicing gratitude, to most people, implies sitting poised over one’s journal, scribbling down all the things one has to be thankful of. And this is all very well and good, of course not without its merits, if you have the time. But it’s not always possible.

Of course we’d all love to sit and write in our journal for an hour each evening, aligning ourselves with what’s good and worthy in our lives, but life isn’t always like that. It’s never usually like that for most of us. Life gets in the way.

Whereas appreciation—the recognition and enjoyment of someone or something—is so much more a pro-active, in-the-moment and present way of being.

Journaling out what we’re thankful for can get to be a bit of a chore, to the point where we think it’s a nice idea, but don’t ever do it.

Practicing appreciation is simply about catching ourselves in a tailspin of negative thoughts, and then taking a deep breath and reminding ourselves that we are here, alive, and that we are enjoying life despite all its stresses and traumas.

To be truly happy with our lives when all this terrifying stuff is happening around us is to be conscious of the happiness and goodness that does exist. Inside all of us.

We have to begin to appreciate everything that’s good around us.

And this is how we truly rebel against all the evil in the world. We look it square in the eyes and get on with our lives regardless. With grace and poise and love for one another.

Love beats terror any day of the week.

And of course, there’s the dual meaning of appreciation too—a full understanding of a situation. Remembering that whatever we see or read has an agenda. And it’s up to us to respond to the information with this in our minds, rather than letting ourselves get blinded by rage and jump to conclusions.

Please remember that amazing, joyous and truly good things happen in the world every day. Remind yourself of this whenever you can. Actively look for it.

There are many good news sites around the web that have some amazing tales of joy and togetherness.

And we shouldn’t feel like we’re blinkering ourselves by being this way. We are all more than aware that the world is in a mess and terrible stuff happens every day.

But if we bow to it, and if we allow ourselves to be scared, then we all might as well lie down in the dust.

Because then they’ve won.

So find balance in your life as best you can. Practice appreciation of what you have. Look for that glimmer of light in the darkness; it will always be there if you look hard enough.

Rebel against the terrorists by loving each other, by being wise to their mission of turning us against one another.

Rebel as well against the media and the politicians by not taking as gospel everything they tell us. Find many sources, and make your own mind up.

And most importantly, keep your smile on, find the goodness in life.

It’s there still, I promise.

You can do it.

We all can.


Relephant Reads:

How I Connect to Genuine Appreciation in My Life.

Why I don’t watch the News and Refuse to be Politically Active.


Author: Matt Richards

Assistant Editor: Jaimee Guenther // Editor: Toby Israel

Images: Alan O’Rourke/Flickr (via audiencestack) // Woodleywonderworks/Flickr


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