As 2017 winds to a close, I find myself in the same place that I was when the year started: looking to turn off the noise and negativity has become so damn pervasive in the world. Everywhere I turn, people are complaining about something.

Present company included. Anyone who reads this blog (or has spent time with me in general) knows that I’m capable of bitching about things as much as anybody.

I don’t like being a negative person. I like being surrounded by negativity even more. Probably because negativity is contagious, and as someone who is extraordinarily affected by her environment, I end up catching it in spades.

Back in January, my quest to avoid negativity led me to a 30 day digital detox. That was great, but staying off-line 24/7 isn’t practical. (Although I did delete Twitter from my life, which has been glorious).

This morning, however, it dawned on me that a different strategy is needed for December, and so, as I sat having my coffee I came up with what I think are my tips for making December a brighter month.

  1. Turn off the news. Contrary to what some people think, you don’t need to continually monitor the news. Not a single thing in this world will change because you turned off MSNBC or FOX or the Times website. Nor does reducing your new consumption make you an ostrich hiding your head in the sand. I’m not suggesting you go live in some isolated bubble away from reality.But, let me share with you a little secret: The media needs to make sure you continue consuming. If no one watches (or reads or clicks), then they don’t make money, and if they don’t make money? Well, you know how that goes.

    So how do they get you to watch (read, click)? By whipping you into a hysteria, that’s how. By convincing you that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss something important or be uninformed. Truth is, very little large-scale news happens from day-to-day, let alone during a twenty-four hour news cycle. Most of what you are listening or reading is a rehash of earlier news, all designed to keep you anxious, on edge and consuming.

    Trust me, if something important happens, you will find out about it.

    (For a blog summary and a really interesting podcast about the skewness of our news consumption, click here).

  2. Practice kindness. For many, December is about light and the end of in the darkness, be it a the promise of longer days following the solstice, oil in a lamp or a star in the sky. I realized this morning that the best way to find positivity this month is for me to bring as much lightness as possible to my small corner. Can I change what’s happening in the world? No. But I can brighten someone else’s day, I can smile at a stranger, and I can help someone less fortunate.Kindness is like a stone in a pond. It ripples. Every positive act leads to another. Plus there is nothing like the feeling of knowing you did something nice. Want a brighter December? Toss a few stones.
  3. Stop complaining. If complaining is contagious, then not complaining can be as well. I’m going to spend the month embracing the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Don’t be a cynic, and bewail and bemoan. Omit the negative propositions. Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.” 
  4. Practice Gratitude. There is another quote about complaining: “I felt sorry for having no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.” We spend a lot of time talking about what’s wrong with the world but we are so very lucky in many ways. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude – that is, people who regularly acknowledge the positive parts of their life are happier. Even in the darkest of times, we have things for which to be grateful, if we look hard enough. (Yes, my sales are dreadful, but I’m grateful to have finished writing a novel when so many dream of writing one and never do.
  5. Spend time with family and friends. There is nothing that chases the negativity away like laughter with people you care about. We spend January through November driving ourselves crazy with the need to produce. Why not chill a little bit and celebrate the year’s end with the people you’re lucky to have in your life. I know I plan to.

And there you have my four tips for a better month.  Now that I think about it, they work for all twelve months of the year. I might have just created part of my New Year’s Resolution.

That said, Happy December everyone. Keep fighting the good fight.

Until next Monday, thanks for reading!

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