The economic downturn is real. Unemployment is high, business is down, people are grapping with horrible realities of home loss–these are scary times. There’s an overall tone of gloom. Here in NYC people are extra-crabby on the subway (I hearby ban the irritated cluck-and-sigh as a way to express annoyance). I imagine it’s the same all over. But I, for one, am fighting for mood-independence. I do not want to pitch myself off the gloom bridge.

Perhaps it’s easy for employed me to say, but I notice it’s a struggle to extract myself from the overall vibe–because I’m well aware that today’s employed could be tomorrow’s worried thumb-twiddling. Melancholy and worry are some of my main default settings. But I’m trying to remember that I am not socially obligated to feel lousy all the time. This moment is fine. And all the moments of today have been fine. It’s a mental practice to keep myself there–especially as someone who tends to take on the feelings of others like a particularly absorbant sponge.

Here are some ways I’m fighting the urge to be bummed about the economy (or Michael Jackson, or whatever else is consuming mass consciousness at the moment).

1) Watch Your Language. “These are tough times” may be true, but it’s a bummer of a sentence, it doesn’t come from my soul, and it’s not something I want to reinforce. These are also the best of times and having our words reflect that creates a positive spiral.

2) Deliberately Disconnect. Sitting on public transport or in a waiting room it’s incredibly easy for me to take in all the sullen faces and begin to match my mood to theirs, emotional chameleon that I am. We can catch ourselves by asking: Is this my sadness? If not, nip it–certainly we have enough of our own actual feelings to handle.

3) Careful What You Read. I’ve consciously stayed away from “trend pieces” about the direction of the economy. It’s not (only) that I’m buring my head in the sand, it’s that the experts don’t know any better than I do which “direction we’re headed.” Most of the stuff on TV, radio, online, and in print are sheer, time- and page-filling speculation. Do they have more information than I do? Yep and once in a while it’s useful to catch up. But there’s no need to bathe in the negativity soup.

How do you stay positive when the masses seem to be dwelling on the negative?

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