February 11, 2021

How Watching the News actually Calms our Anxiety (& Leads us toward Enlightenment).

Watch the news.

“I don’t watch the news. It gives me too much anxiety.”

Most of us have either heard this phrase, and some of us actually feel this way.

I understand that watching the news is not always fun. Especially the last four years had been tough for many of us who follow current events—but I feel that those who tried to ignore what was happening actually gave themselves an even harder time.

This might sound counterintuitive, but let me explain.

Do you remember the time when you were a kid who got surprised, overwhelmed, and scared in situations that you could not understand? Why is dad angry? Why is mom so sad?

Do you remember the urge to escape a situation that was beyond your comprehension?

Do you remember a time in your life when the world seemed to be a crazy place where you can’t trust anyone?

This is what I am talking about: the less we know about something, the more it scares us. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Hearing others arguing without knowing where we stand often creates a feeling that we label as anxiety.

Knowing that there are issues like racial injustice, climate change, and an economic crisis without having a voice to express our perspective makes us feel anxious. We know that we should do something, but we do not know how to.

It is not our responsibility to save the world, but it is our responsibility as a member of society to do our best in trying. I don’t expect a single mom with three jobs to watch Anderson Cooper every night, but maybe it could ease her mind.

The world is not a perfect place, and politics can be a dirty game at times, but we should not oversee that there are incredible human beings involved in politics who try their best to tackle the issues of our society.

Maybe it would make the mom with three jobs feel better to know that there is an old, white man like Bernie Sanders, devoting his whole life to establish a minimum wage and supporting other policies that could actually help her. Maybe a young woman who is belittled by her dad can find hope watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez standing up for what she believes in. The Black man who got treated badly by an officer might find hope in reading about heroes like John Lewis.

Many of us are seeking enlightenment and happiness, but what does that actually mean?

How could we possibly achieve enlightenment while ignoring the world around us? How can we truly be happy while being afraid of abrupt changes that could happen at any given moment? How can our nervous system find ease when we are not able to see the bigger picture?

My favorite philosopher, Immanuel Kant gives us a definition of enlightenment that I hold dear to my heart:

“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’- that is the motto of enlightenment.”  

The next time you decide to turn your back on politics, please keep in mind that politicians won’t stop making policies that affect all of us. The next time you decide to distract yourself with a silly movie, please keep in mind that this is not helping anyone. The next time you direct your attention away from an activist because they disrupt your positive vibe only approach, please keep in mind that that person is trying to help others (which actually might create the desired positive vibes in the long run).

I am not saying that all of us have to devote our lives to save the planet, but we could at least use a little of our precious time to support those who chose to do exactly that.

When we haven’t found our voice (yet), we can still listen to other voices and amplify their message by sharing it.

And most importantly, we could start respecting others for doing something that goes beyond their own personal interest. We could make that a quality that defines who is good enough to be a role model or considered a hero.

Let’s stop praising characters who entertain us with their self-absorbed way of living and direct our sympathies toward those who actually care.

Knowing that we do the right thing is what eases our anxiety—hope eases our anxiety. There is so much goodness in this world—we just need to take a closer look.


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