I have been in public relations and marketing for over 30 years, but I heard two new media terms recently – ‘doom scrolling’ and ‘doom surfing’. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines these as “a tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people find themselves reading continuously bad news…. without the ability to stop or step back.” This is closely related to ‘clickbait’, a more widely used term indicating a dramatic or emotive headline which is not necessarily real news but aims to – you guessed it – encourage the user to click on a link.
But is the world really that bad a place? As a rational and intelligent adult, business owner, grandparent, and member of the community that I love, I do accept the realities of the problems around us. Our ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, worries on the international front from Taiwan to the Ukraine, and an increasing polarization of America are real problems that must be understood, met and dealt with.
However, I am an optimist and insist on viewing the world in positive terms. I am also thankfully surrounded by positive people in my family, my friends, and my team at work. I simply refuse to cave in to the “doom and gloom” merchants and adopt a “woe is me” attitude. I believe that the world is a wonderful and beautiful place which has substantially more good in it than bad.
I work hard at being realistic while retaining a hopefulness and confidence about the future, seeing the glass as “half full” rather than “half empty”, a phrase that was first reported used by former US President, Ronald Reagan in 1985. I also like the quote by comedian George Carlin who said “some people see the glass half-full. Others see it half-empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”
A friend challenged me recently to name one good thing that came out of 2021. What did I come up with? The World Health Organization has approved the first malaria vaccine. Malaria still kills over 600,000 people each year, over half of them children under five. It is now likely to soon be a disease of the past like polio and smallpox. Take that, click-baiters and doom-surfers!
My personal optimism tendencies sometimes lead me to think I can get all my work or chores done with time to spare – sometimes leaving me exhausted, running late and frustrated with myself. My husband calls it my own “personal battle with the space-time continuum”.
In today’s world it is difficult not to be overwhelmed occasionally by depressing and scary news. I retain my optimistic nature with some simple but effective tools that my more than five decades on earth have proven to work for me:
- The biggest thing is learning from history and remembering that “this too shall pass”, a great phrase from Corinthians in the Bible, and one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite sayings. I majored in history at university, and the perspective of centuries proves that the human race is absolutely resilient in the face of war, pandemics and natural disasters.
- Although it is essential for my work that I stay up to date on social media and daily news, I find unplugging from a constant 24/7 news stream and occasionally turning off my smartphone is vital for my mental health.
- Getting enough rest. It is tempting to maximize every day to the utmost and just stay at work to get that one more thing done, or staying up a little later at night to just check one more thing off my personal list. I have learned that sometimes I just need to just call it a day and stop to remember that I am a human ‘being’ not a human ‘doing’!
- Compartmentalizing problems and not letting them dominate other things I think, say or do. Instead, I try to assess them, decide on a course of action and then just get on with it.
- Hugging my loved ones. The comfort of physical touch from hugs to stroking a pet has been scientifically proven to reduce stress for everyone involved.
I say goodbye this week with a quote from Annette Funicello, the famous American mouseketeer, singer and actress who danced her way into all those beach party movies with Frankie Avalon in the 1950s and 60s. In 1992, when she was announcing that she was suffering with multiple sclerosis, she didn’t seek pity or sympathy. Instead, she proclaimed “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”. What a great lady, and what great words to live by.
God Bless America, and Happy New Year!
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