It’s exasperating. All day, every day we’re pummeled with negative news story after negative news story. Then talking heads analyze and dissect these stories and project them into bleak, conflicting doom-and-gloom scenarios. Seeking refuge among friends on Facebook we are soon buried in their provocative memes and rants. And if we’re not careful, our phone calls and in-person meetings with friends and family slip into pointless stirring of a pot full of second-hand, media-inspired arguments. Eventually all this this negativity can cast a shadow over both our waking and sleeping moments, leaving us feeling like helpless, defeated victims of elected representatives and political processes that we can’t begin to control.
Now even though I’ve written much on techniques for finding peace of mind and taking positive action, I still struggle to practice what I preach. So I’ve decided to force myself, by writing this, to review some specific actions that we can all take to step out of the negative shadows and into the positive light. May this review help us all move from helpless anxiety and anger to enthusiastic, rabble-rousing activism!
5 Specific Actions You Can Take to Rise Above the Negative and Get Positive Political Results
The graphic below summarizes the five actions. It shows how each action enables the next.
If you want to shake off the negativity and bring about positive changes in the world, these steps can help you.
1. Get enough sleep.
Angst and anger causing you to lose sleep? If you’re not well-rested, you can’t think clearly. Dark thoughts and feelings of dread become more powerful when your brain is swimming in a sea of tired confusion. So the first step in handling this stuff is to get enough sleep so you will have a rested brain to help you discover right action. Learn more & get some practical tools:
- A Good Night’s Sleep? There Are Apps for That!
- Trouble sleeping? Twilight (Android) or Night Shift (iOS) can help!
- Back to Basics: Get Enough Sleep, Rest, & Water
2. Practice mindfulness.
By learning to be “here and now” instead of mentally time-traveling to some dark, imagined future or sad past, you will be able to step back from the media babble stream and put events and editorial opinions in perspective. You’ll be better able to separate real threats and issues you actually care about from the phony, cable-news-ratings-based threats and rants. And, most importantly, you’ll be better able to connect with the pleasant, peaceful moments when they present themselves as you learn to laugh at, and dismiss, those noisy, mental soap bubbles served up by the darker corners of your consciousness. Learn more & get some practical tools:
- How Mindfulness Meditation Helps Me Laugh at Mental Soap Bubbles
- Meditation Fact Sheet: Scientifically Proven Benefits & a Who’s Who of Famous Meditators
- Practice Mindfulness
3. Take charge of your media diet and consciously control the flow of news and talking heads.
This is one of those things that is truly simple, as long as you are disciplined enough to actually practice it. The video and blog post provide some practical advice and specific apps to help you get started.
4. Actively seek the truth.
The truth is rarely as simple as the talking heads would have you believe. As you become a conscious consumer of media, it’s inevitable that you’re going to come across all sorts of contradictory information. To separate truth from distortions, you’ll need to do the detective work of uncovering the truth for yourself. And part of this sleuthing means you’ll need to wade into the weeds of the issues, visit trusted fact-checking websites and read investigative, “long form” sources. Learn more and get some practical tools:
- The Truth Finder: 3 Questions & Lots of Links to Help You Distinguish Fact from Fiction
- Media-Induced Ignorance & How to Neutralize It
- 10+ Independent Online News Sources and Why America Needs More of Them
- 10 Investigative Reporting Outlets to Follow
5. Take meaningful, observable action to nudge the world toward change.
In his A Low-Tech Guide to Becoming More Politically Active Brian Chen shared this quote from Joshua Tauberer, the creator of GovTrack, a popular web tool for tracking legislation: “Sitting behind your computer is not going to be as effective as showing up for people where they really need it… Government is people.”
In other words, posting a snarky meme on Facebook or tweeting a pithy critical comment is not action. And clicking an online petition to add your name may be temporarily satisfying, but it’s not true engagement. Action, in a democracy, means making phone calls to the office of your elected officials, hitting the streets to take part in a political action or demonstration, joining a group of volunteers who are working for change or (Do you dare?) running for local office.
Where to Begin
A good place to start is to simply pay attention to what your elected representatives are preparing to vote on. You gotta track their voting agenda! Then make some noise and let them know how you want them to vote! On the national level, Countable (available as an app or via web browser), is a great tool that will help you zero in on the issues you care about! Here’s a summary from their website:
“Countable makes it quick and easy to understand the laws Congress is considering. We also streamline the process of contacting your lawmaker, so you can tell them how you want them to vote on bills under consideration. You can use Countable to:
- Read clear and succinct summaries of upcoming and active legislation.
- Directly tell your lawmakers how to vote on those bills by clicking “Yea” or “Nay”.
- Follow up on how your elected officials voted on bills, so you can hold them accountable in the next election cycle.
If it’s local issues you are interested in, you might do a Facebook search for local political action groups near you, then join and engage with them by attending local meetings in the real world, not just online. These links might help:
- How to Get Involved with Your Local Political Party
- United States: Political Action Committees
- 25 Ways to be Politically Active (whether you lean left or right)
Finally, if you’re burning to call your senator or congressperson immediately, use the links below to get their contact numbers and go get ’em!
- Find and call your House of Representatives member: http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep
- Find and call your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
So don’t just sit and stew in anger and frustration and negativity. Take action and you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll be helping to change the world.
As anthropologist Margaret Mead has famously said:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Bonuses: Need a little pep talk to nudge you to action? Check out these podcasts:
- Be the Change You Want to See
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- Take the Risk
- Just Do It!
- Trust Your Judgment