GET ADVICE: Ask Jason – Finding the Good in the Bad: How to Cope with the Negative Effects of Politics and Fake News

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Momof2 writes:

I often find it hard to be optimistic and find meaning in a world that seems to be so fraught with violence and negativity. The political and social climate of our country is currently so divisive. How do you suggest transcending the negativity we are exposed to on a daily basis so that we can begin to focus on the good?   

 -Momof2

Dr. Holland’s reply:

Thanks for your question Mom of Two! These are indeed trying times. We feel it too.

In fact, the political and social turmoil in the U.S. is part of what inspired us to leave our jobs and embark on Lifespark. We sensed that something is profoundly wrong and felt compelled to do more to share our hopeful message with the world.

I believe part of what makes this social and political climate so difficult is that many of us feel pulled to do something about it but feel utterly powerless. After all, the reasoning goes, what could I possibly do to make a difference? And who has the time anyway? So, we retreat from what’s happening in the world and direct our focus to other aspects of life (e.g., work, family, etc.) that we can more easily affect.

That’s certainly an understandable response, and not an altogether unhealthy one. Change often starts small. And though I know it sounds like a cliche, if you can have a positive impact on someone in your immediate circle, then we really are one step closer to changing the world. Savoring those moments can certainly help you to keep your sanity in these senseless times.

But it’s hard to completely ignore the nightly newscasts and social media posts that flash across the screen. Nor should we. As responsible citizens, we look upon this human tragedy and quite naturally wonder, ‘Could I be doing more?’

Though few of us have the luxury or desire to abandon our lives to go on a political crusade, we can still find ways to face these problems and be a force for positive change.

Here are 5 ideas for making it happen:

Look for opportunity in the problem.

The most meaningful moments in life are rarely devoid of hardship. And all change starts in the hearts and minds of individuals, just like you. So, when you’re exposed to unpleasant images and rhetoric from the news, try to take an empowered stance. See if you can reshape it in your mind to look less like a bad dream and more like an opportunity to make a difference.

Stay informed.

In this era of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth,’ it has never been more important for people to know the facts about what’s happening in the world. We’re in the midst of a public opinion and media war, and there are bad actors out there that would prefer for you to just check out and not care about any of it. Don’t let them win! Even as a busy mom, you can stay informed using news aggregators like The Skimm, which summarize the top stories for you.

Avoid knee-jerk reactions.

Divisiveness is born out of inflexibility. We see the same tired drama play out on the nightly news shows, as liberals and conservatives alike throw mud and spew outrage. Try not to let this outrage rub off on you too much. When we’re highly emotional, we’re prone to make hasty judgments and default to familiar ways of thinking and behaving. But unusual and extraordinary circumstances such as these, which don’t adhere to normal rules, demand a more flexible and clear-headed response. Be part of the solution and don’t fall prey to cheap tactics designed to play with your emotions and distract from the real issues.

Allow your mind to be changed.

If there is any hope of political and social unity, we must all be willing to change our minds, to at least budge a little from our current positions. You can take the first step by taking a look at a news outlet that leans opposite to your political party one day a week. So, if you’re a liberal, see what Fox News has to offer. If conservative, check out CNN. You may disagree with much of what’s being said, but as a fun game with yourself, see if you can find at least a few areas of common ground.

Be engaged but set limits.

Over-exposure to the negativity and vitriol in the news can have a corrosive effect and bleed into other areas of your life. And with the 24-hour news cycle and social media, it can be hard to get a break. So, in the midst of these challenges, take good care of yourself. Carve out time to put away your electronic devices and unwind without having to worry about being interrupted by a breaking news alert.

Thank you again for sharing your question with us. Since this is an issue that many in our community are likely facing, please keep in touch and update us on your journey. For now, I hope these words have given you some hope and food for thought.

Best of luck!

Dr. Jason

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