Opinion: Staying Optimistic in Uncertain Times

The steady influx of negative news can have a damaging effect on our well-being.

Olivia Shubak, Staff Writer

As the new year ushers in reflection on all the happenings of the previous year, it can be an exciting and difficult time. In this stretch of retrospection, we reminisce in the memories and highlights, but we also are reminded of the hardships that we have faced—both as individuals and, on a broader spectrum, as humanity. 

Currently, adversity is synonymous with the news, which is brimming with disheartening, fatalistic perspectives. Although awareness of these issues is imperative, it is also vital to be solution-oriented. The negativity in the media sets a precedent of assuming a constantly pessimistic perspective, which can be an obstructive mindset. 

This isn’t to say that the world should solely be perceived through a rosy lens. In fact, it would be naive to ignore the negative aspects of humanity. The challenges we are dealing with should be acknowledged and granted due attention.

However, mainstream views have become too focused on the many misfortunes of the world, and this is when pessimism becomes dangerous. A despairing society cannot function, let alone make significant progress. So while awareness is key, hyper-cynical views ultimately prohibit our ability to alleviate matters.

Consider the global controversy over the climate crisis. It is widely known that the planet is facing dire circumstances, with a potentially existential threat to humanity as weather events become more destructive and severe. While the vast majority of sources call attention to the issue, few provide access to solutions. There are scarce outlets that demonstrate how we as individuals can initiate practical change and clean up our so-called “side of the street.”

Oftentimes, the news leaves the reader feeling utterly vulnerable and powerless to help the situation, and so the situation is simply ignored in order to avoid these discomfiting feelings. When we view these concerns as unfixable, they become unfixable. Furthermore, this feeling of helplessness contributes to the worsening rates of anxiety and depression. 

It is paramount to preserve hope, and the first step at improving your outlook is to monitor your news diet.

It is paramount to preserve hope, and the first step at improving your outlook is to monitor your news diet. As a consumer, it is important to stay tuned to more upbeat developments and to ensure that your news sources are balanced in their focus. It’s easy to become entangled in the muddle of bias, misinformation, and doomsday news designed to induce anxiety. Above all, remaining optimistic is crucial when confronted with facts and events that are discouraging, especially in the media.

This is supported by experts and countless examples of human experiences. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau discusses the enjoyment of the process, and if it wasn’t obvious, within the title lies this most meaningful sentiment. Additionally, a TED Talk by Shawn Anchor states that in order to be successful, happiness is an essential precursor. These individuals prove that outlook is a choice, one that affects virtually all aspects of life. 

Another book that reinforces the idea that attitude prevails is by Victor Frankl, a psychologist, and holocaust survivor. He wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, where he describes an account of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl came to the profound conclusion that each and every moment of life, whether consumed by anguish or joy, is purposeful. He wrote,  “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

Frankl’s philosophy, after encountering some of the most horrific human experiences, demonstrates the resiliency that we should aim to emulate. This philosophy can be applied to anyone’s life because, as the author states, attitude is an intrinsic freedom.