Why I’ve stopped reading newspapers… and what I’m doing instead.

I don’t know about you, but it can feel pretty depressing to open up many of today’s tabloids. Reports on current affairs, climate change and large-scale tragedies don’t make for easy reading, and I very rarely feel uplifted after consuming news these days.

It’s not so much the “dire state of the world today” that leaves me feeling demotivated and flat. I’ve recently been listening to some audiobooks written back in the 1960s by philosopher Alan Watts, and themes he discusses include people’s general anxiety at the state of the world, increased levels of political uncertainty and a widely held belief we’re edging ever closer to nuclear war/a final doomsday/being taken over by robots. Even over 50 years ago Watts acknowledged that there has been a long-standing tendency for people to believe the world is continually falling into a worse state of affairs compared to the previous generation.

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What frustrates me the most about negative news and deliberately shocking headlines, is that the media imprints these problems and bad news stories on the public with little suggestion of what we might be able to do to help. It’s a classic example of focusing on the problem, rather than solution which (as I discuss in a previous blog about growth mindsets) does not help us move forward.

I recognise it’s important to stay in the loop with what’s going on in the world, but the disproportionate focus on negative news with no call to action can’t be good for us. Focusing on the problems, disasters, and risks in the modern world distracts our attention from thinking of possible solutions or creative alternatives. Consuming news in this way leads us to feel worried, fearful, and disempowered to do anything to resolve the issue.

News should not be sugar coated – there’s no benefit to us burying our heads in the sand and pretending that nothing bad is happening out there. But I believe the way stories are shared and talked about could be positioned in a way that encourages more people to get involved, take action, and work together to find resolutions to the challenges we’re experiencing today.

Focusing on the negative – or what we don’t want – does not help us create solutions. Similarly in a coaching relationship, the greater the focus on the behaviour and environment that we want to create; the more likely change and growth is to happen.

 Here are 8 (small) things you can do today if you want to start taking action to make change happen:

1. Sign and share meaningful petitions for causes that you believe in. Talk to your friends about why it’s important to you.

2. Follow social media pages that enhance awareness of causes you support. Share or like relevant content, especially content encouraging you and others to take action.

3. Subscribe to newsletters or blogs of charities that you want to learn more about. Consider donating a small amount of money each month to your favourite charity, or take a look at these suggestions of how to give to charities without donating actual money.

4. Seek opportunities to share your opinions on topics you care about. This morning I completed a survey on London’s environmental strategy – you can find out more about how to share your view here.

5. Volunteer to support a local school/community centre/political party.

6. Provide thoughtful feedback when you experience excellent or poor service – this can be everything from eating in a restaurant to visiting your doctor’s surgery.

7. Don’t shy away from discussing sensitive subjects with those who hold opposing views to you.

8. Write to your local MP to share any problems you’re experiencing or suggestions you have for improvements. You can find out who your local MP is here.

I hear what you’re saying. These suggestions are not going to transform the world into how you want it to be overnight. In fact, many of these might not appear to have much of an immediate impact at all.

However the process of taking action (no matter how small) towards your goal – whether in relation to politics or personal development – shifts your brain to a more solutions focused approach. This opens our mind to future ideas and possibilities, perhaps even triggering a greater, more significant change to happen. With the right frame of mind and regular action, who knows what solutions you might come up with next.

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