Philosophy: Removing Negativity

Philosophy: Removing Negativity

Breaking news, death destruction and mayhem, more at 11. Be sure to join the conversation with everyone else who is upset by these events in the news social media and comments.

Or don’t. Sometimes it’s best to strive to lessen our exposure to these things to live a happier life.

Last year I didn’t recall being happy as much as I noticed I felt upset or annoyed. I read a lot and found myself getting really agitated after reading many things in the news. It wasn’t just that all the news upsetting, but the comments too. The need for social commentary on these things brought out an array of people with varying opinions and some that were just down right toxic and you could tell were written to just get under other peoples skin. Additionally, I found myself getting upset over small things, such as others drivers, and peoples actions that out of my control and ultimately didn’t matter. So I started reflecting on why I let myself get upset by these things and what I could do to avoid it. After reflecting on myself and the world around me I noticed something rather drastic. Negativity is everywhere, and this negativity has a terribly poisoning effect on how I see and experience the world. So much it led to a memorable unpleasant mood and a need for change.

Negativity everywhere

Negativity is everywhere. However, from my experiance it seems to concentrate into the following sources: News, TV/Media, the internet, and everyday life with the most of it coming from the first three and those emotions spilling into everyday life. So how do these affect our lives?

News

I get all of my news online as I don’t subscribe to cable(or satellite).  This leads to a lot of headline skimming, article skimming and seeing what is going on around the globe. Now I am not going to cover the internet side of news as that will be covered below, but even local news has the same issue as national/print/online/radio news. Negative headlines are always present. Natural disasters, killings, crime, fires, world conflict. What seems to be absent though is a list of good news for the day. I feel that most news is negative(no stats to back it), but feeling this way seems to be at least a key to understanding part of the issue.

So it turns out that just by trying to stay informed I find myself getting barraged by a litany of things that make me upset, feel terrible for others and generally make me feel unhappy. These effects also don’t end once I read the article either. A bad mood carries on for a while. This doesn’t stop at me though as I also tell Allyson of current events and of course she has to live with me and my moods.

Allyson doesn’t read much news so I try to let her know the important things going on and a few weeks ago she told me that I only ever have bad news, and that I should stop and tell her only good news stories I have read or heard that day. She didn’t like the constant negativity and by only reporting good news I found that many days I didn’t have anything to share. So I figured this was part of my problem. I feel these news items do have importance, but the constant focus on them is unsettling as Allyson pointed out to me by having me filter what I told her. So if it was affecting her and she didn’t even read them, what could this be doing to me? It ended up making me unhappy in subtle ways which led to me being in a noticeably unhappy mood. She also let me know when I was in such a mood, which was more often than I realized.

Television/Media

Now I did just mention that I don’t have cable, but I don’t watch shows via Satellite or streaming ether. As such, I rarely come in contact with the programming that most people watch. This can be alienating because a lot of people like to discuss TV but this has also enabled me to see just how negativity is injected into TV shows to increase drama.

No, this isn’t just limited to shows like Law and Order, The Walking Dead or whatever the new popular show is. I am talking even basic shows like renovating and selling houses. I noticed this exact situation the other month while Allyson and I were in a waiting room. They had on HGTV and was playing the show “Flip or Flop”. Now regardless of how you feel about the show, it appears to be blatantly written to create unnecessary conflicts to create drama. The episode was punctuated with tragic setbacks of thousands of dollars as something new was ruined or found to be in disrepair. The hosts and contractors showing a lot of negative emotion.

Ok, so what? It’s just TV right? Well, having not watched TV in a long while this actually had a very noticeable affect. Being no longer numb to such minor dramas the stress shown on screen started to affect me. Just as if someone is stressed out in the same room and you can feel yourself tensing up? That’s the experience I had. It wasn’t entertaining or comfortable and I wondered how this could be the norm as I have noticed similarities in other shows that people leave on when I have been over to visit. Stress adds drama and a lot of TV likes drama. However, this constant feed of drama and visual/audio stress from media leaves us with that same response as being around a person in distress. We are social creatures that react to others emotions. It’s a hardwired response. So I think the constant drama being injected into our lives via non news media is taking a toll on all of us.

But I don’t watch TV right? So how does this affect me? Well, have you noticed how many TV’s you see in a day? There are TV’s in doctors offices, waiting rooms, auto repair shops, even gas pumps. Not to mention others homes when I visit. So I do still get exposure often.

Additionally even the Radio can evoke this reaction in me as well. Not just with news clips between songs, but topics used on talk radio. Drama, disappointments and failures all on display, in any format at any time be it fictional or real.

Internet

This can be one of the worst places to find negativity as comments sections are available everywhere which can lead to some rather toxic arguments running wild. You can also find all the news from around the world with a simple search. Also all the videos that are shows like TV or TV on demand you can find all of the negative practically everywhere. You can also easily find a topic you enjoy and then see someones comments trashing it within seconds of being happy to have found someone else who enjoys the same thing or likes the same product etc.

I spend a fair amount of my time on the internet looking for information and once I became mindful of negativity I noticed how often it bubbles up. Usually in comments, but also many time in opinion pieces or perhaps the wording of a passionate review. All of these I found changed my mood for the worse after reading or watching. It was clear I needed to regulate my content intake to ensure I read more positive things than what I had been.

Everyday life

We all get upset over small things. Yes, it doesn’t really matter that we spilled our soda, broke a plate or had to take a cold shower as the water heater broke. These things happen, but we let ourselves get upset by them. Not that it’s wrong to become upset by things because these are real emotions we feel when such things happen. It’s not anything to discount. However, I hear people complain about things such as how far they need to park away from the door of whatever store or business they were going to, or how the restaurant got their order wrong or forgot to bring their meal. From bad drivers to inconsiderate strangers in public, we hear and think about these bad experiences daily.

The thing is, most of these events we forget shortly after, so why let them negatively affect our mood which cascades into your next interactions making them seems worse? Why get upset at all when most of these interactions will be forgotten? So I realized I needed to change my outlook to try to ignore the small stuff.

Time for a change

So, noticing this I felt that I needed to make changes. I felt that a lot of my mood was reflecting the types of articles I read, news I heard and other online interactions(even passive as reading comments). So I decided that I would start to actively avoid things that I know would get me upset to see how it affected me. The worst that could happen is I would still feel the same. However, once I made the change it was immediately noticeable. I am happier now daily than I was constantly consuming stress and negativity from these various sources. This overall better mood has also now spilled over into my daily life making me, I feel, more patient and more laid back.

How to avoid Negativity

If you perhaps have felt the same or feel that you are agitated or upset often, it may be time for change. With negativity being found almost anywhere it’s very important to be able to try to better regulate how much you expose yourself to and how you react to it. Below are some tips that I use to help stop the negativity from creeping into my day.

Limit news exposure

Now, it’s important to understand what’s going on in the world and I don’t think news should be avoided totaly. However, I found it helpful to avoid reading/watching details that could make the news worse. This isn’t turning a blind eye to events either. I just avoid reading the details that will make me feel worse. So a headline that reads of two people dying in a car crash due to wet roads? I skip reading because the headline gives enough information to process the event. Reading additional details will only make me feel worse. A manufacturing plant shutting down and thousands losing jobs? I may read the details as to why, product became obsolete due to new technology, scandal, bought out etc as those will usually lead to additional news pieces later and help understand the world around me. However I will skip reading all the details and specifics that evoke a more emotional response. Not to ignore it, but as I can’t do anything about it I don’t want to feel bad about all the problems reported in the news all the time. I want to be happier. So it’s best to limit full exposure.

Limit TV/Media exposure

As I found even the most mundane shows being packed with drama(stress) to make them “more interesting” I try to avoid most shows and related media. Anything that can evoke the same feelings of stress as being in the same room as someone in distress and that I am not OK with I avoid. So yes, I will watch a movie and want to feel those highs and lows to have the experience. However, if there are things that seem excessive or overdone or out of place, I will avoid it. Why should I feel stressed watching a professional flip a house? Doesn’t make sense, I avoid it.

Limit Internet reading/consumption

As the internet can encompass all stresses and negativity from TV and the news as well as add in the unpredictability of comments I actively monitor what I find bringing negativity so I can avoid it. An article about how laws are being made that is biased to help a company with an effective geographical monopoly and prevent its competition? I know that will upset me, I won’t read the article. A good article in which I completely agree with? I will avoid the comments so I don’t have to see the extreme counter views. Not that I don’t recognize them as possible viewpoints, but you probably know what I am really talking about. The comments that create a firestorm of negativity name calling and fact checking? That’s not enjoyable. Avoid.

Attitude and perspective

So for everything else in life I try to keep a better attitude and perspective on things. As I mentioned, most of the little things we complain about to others are forgettable. Also knowing that letting them sour my mood will only make my day seem worse, I see there is value in putting it all in perspective so I can actively enjoy my day instead of passively letting these negative thoughts control how I feel. It’s not that many of these things are not valid things to be upset about, but perspective helps keep those emotions grounded and helps get over them faster so I can enjoy the good of the day instead of be stuck dwelling on the bad.

Feeling good

So all in all, having been regulating my intake of negativity and trying to control my emotions to the negativity I feel I have felt the best I have in a long while. I have much lower stress, am happier and overall just feel good most of the time. So if you feel like negativity is running your life, try to control it. You may find that with a little mindfulness your entire perspective and experience will change for the better.

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