This was a question I posed to myself after being part of the fallout of 9/11 in the airline industry and being subjected to news report after horrible news report. I also worked for a federal agency during the time of the Oklahoma bombings and the siege in Waco. It was a frightening time for all of us but it taught me the importance of feeding my brain the best information possible. Those were the days I became aware of how my body reacted to the things I put into my mind. I gave up watching the news, quit reading horror stories and looked for ways to be in the world that would change the way I felt.
We can get sucked into things that begin to take away our choices and not even know that we have lost them. I have an acquaintance who is the town crier, feeling the need to post the most heinous of news stories in her Facebook feed. I sense that she gets an almost giddy thrill out of being the first one to spread the news. There is another whose conversation always consists of her current ailments and arguments with the world, while passing judgement on everyone and everything. Having them in my life for even short bursts is tough, but as I consider my own past I know that I was once like them. It wasn’t until I discovered that there were alternative ways of seeing the world that I began to grow past the need to feed off the tragedy like a vulture. It was not a joyous awakening but it change my life.
We are pure energy. Our brains and nervous systems pass electrical current through us to create movement, to trigger release of hormones, and to process the world around us. Block any of that energy and you have a malfunction in a perfectly designed system. Being bombarded with news stories throughout the day causes our bodies to create stress hormones to protect the system. When we have negative input it creates a negative environment, and disease grows in a negative environment. Do that enough and your brain will alter its structure to accommodate the negative process and shut down systems that keep you going.
When we are constantly focusing outside of ourselves and “stressing out” over others behaviors, unsubstantiated fears, and things we are completely powerless to change, it can create a loop of fear, guilt, anger and punishment. We don’t want to feel fearful or guilty, so when we do many of us find ways to punish ourselves for being less than perfect. If we aren’t healthy mentally or physically, we might seek out someone or something to blame to justify our feelings. The punishment might come in the form of denying ourselves, lashing out at others, acting out in ways we really know we shouldn’t, or ingesting chemicals, food or alcohol to excess. Regardless of the results, the catalyst is usually focusing on things that take away our ability to make healthy choices.
So what do you do to change? Start from right where you are. Take a look around you on a typical day and see what choices you make. At the end of the day pull out your journal (one of the best change agents around) and get honest with yourself. Here are some ideas on how to start:
How did you see your world today?
What did you say?
How did you react when things didn’t go as planned?
What thoughts went through your head when your coworker didn’t deliver on their part of the project?
What about how you talk to your spouse or children? And most importantly….
What went right?
Change won’t happen if you hide from the problem…and the problem is often what you nourish yourself with. Whether ideas, environment, people, food…everything we surround ourselves with is what sustains us. A friend of mine said many years ago that "the thing I focus on the most, becomes my God for the day".
Being mindful in a world of technology and busyness fed by fear is tough but doable. Find time to get quiet in the mornings. Make sure your phone, tablet etc. are out of reach and sit on the porch, or in a quiet spot in your home. Get up earlier, write, pray, meditate and give yourself time discover who you have become. You have to know and get familiar with your truth so that that the things that are no longer serving you can be released. Write gratitude lists and pay attention to what you feel…don’t judge…just pay attention.
Each of us has the choice to wake up and create a happy life for ourselves. When you begin to accomplish one thing, it makes you feel better. When your energy goes up you feel it and you will want more of that good feeling.
When you alleviate the fear, guilt, anger, and punishment cycle you begin to have more choices and can feed your energy in ways that will create happiness in your life. This cycle of happy anticipation will be the nourishment you need to live a more fulfilling and productive life.
The world will go on as it will. Your life can change...today.