Things are going haywire at work, your friends are having troubles and you’re being brought into them, you’re wondering where the next money is going to come from – we’ve all had these times in our lives, where bad news never seems to come singly, but in groups! So how do we stay detached and keep our tranquility in the middle of everything?
Control your mind
All negativity first attacks the mind, and it is here that you can have your best defenses against being depressed about it. Too often we waste valuable energy speculating worst-case scenarios about what will happen, and we end up being depressed more from the scenarios that we have invented than the situation as it exists now! We have to train ourselves to focus on what needs to be done, and cut aside any extraenous thinking or worrying. I remember a prayer my mother had pinned up on the kitchen noticeboard ever since I was a child: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” My mother wasn’t particularly religious, I guess it was just the profound wisdom contained within the prayer that appealed to her, the same as it does to me.
This is of course easier said than done – the mind can at times seem like a set of wild horses careering down the path of negativity regardless of the effect it has on your happiness. To tame those horses, what is needed is a regular practice of meditation. It won’t make negative thoughts go away overnight, but what it will do over time is strengthen your ability to focus on the here and now and stop mulling over what might never happen.
Keep a perspective
Negative news tends to fill up your entire thinking and crowd out all the positive aspects of life. Don’t let that happen! Keep things in perspective by considering all the blessings you have had so far in your life. We discussed the quality of gratitude a few blog posts back, and we would certainly recommend exploring some of the techniques posted there; it will help you see all the good things in your life as well as the bad.
It’s not the event itself; it’s how you interpret it
Be not afraid
Of destructive actions by others.
But be afraid
Of your own reaction to them.
– Sri Chinmoy
A common psychological model developed in the 1980’s postulated that people who attribute internal, stable and global causes to bad things that happen are much more likely to get depressed about them. What do we mean by that? By internal, we mean blaming ourselves rather than something outside ourselves. By stable, we feel that the current bad situation is going to last forever. And by global, we see this bad thing as evidence of a continuing run of hopelessness – for example saying “Oh, I can’t do anything right” or “it always turns out like that” – rather than seeing it as specific to that particular situation. All these ways of explaining a situation are merely reflex actions of the mind. When we can control our minds, we can accept each situation and deal with it as it is, without attributing blame, without feeling we will be trapped in that situation forever, and without seeing that bad situation as a further indication of how bad life is.
Happiness is always accompanied by a tremendous sense of expansion – you feel a great sense of goodwill for everyone, and a sense of place in this vast world. In contrast, when bad news strikes, the tendency is to retreat behind the walls of your own castle and separate yourself from everyone; your thinking becomes largely focused on yourself and your predicament. Try every day to have a diet of inspirational reading or watching; this will help in turbulent times to release you from your self absorbed thought-prison and back on the road to actively look for a way forward. Read about other people who faced odds much greater than yours and triumphed. If they can do it, you can do it too!