How to stay ‘up’ in a negative world

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by negativity, but it doesn't have to be that way.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by negativity, but it doesn't have to be that way. Photo: Getty

In these ultra-connected times, being privy to all the problems of the world via our screens has its disadvantages.

The news and those dystopian shows we tend to relax to at the end of the day can all add to a sense of gloom.

Largely gone is that gleeful anticipation of the future we enjoyed in The Jetsons. Watch any recent fantasy with a futuristic theme and it’s apparent our view of the future is bleak.

Common fears depicted in these imaginary landscapes include evil multinational corporations (Mr Robot), terrorism (American Sniper), climate change (Snowpiercer), technology and robots (Humans), and overpopulation (Elysium). And who could forget The Matrix, where humans were harvested as an energy source.

In Archeologies of the Future, literary critic Frederic Jameson, suggests dystopian fantasies critique our collective social anxieties and real-world issues of the moment. While hardly a new genre, in recent times dystopian films seem to be on the increase in popularity and number.

With despair ‘on trend’ it can be hard to ‘stay up.’

A 2017 survey by Deloitte across thirty countries, suggests pessimism is rampant in developed nations, with Australians among the worst.

Make like Neo and use your mind to stop the negativity.

Make like Neo and use your mind to stop the negativity.

Four per cent of Australian Millennials (born after 1982) expect to be happier than their parents, compared to 23 per cent of their global counterparts.

Ironically, while living standards and life expectancy have generally improved across the world, depression is increasing. Worldwide, it’s the leading cause of disability, according to 2017 World Health Organisation data.

To buck the trend, pencil these into your day.

Exercise in nature

Dr Ryan Harvey of House Call Doctor says “exercise releases serotonin and endorphins, which lift a person’s overall mood.” Exercise outdoors to harness the additional mood-boosting benefits of nature.

Embrace sunlight

Nothing lifts the spirit like sunlight. “Sunlight is our best source of vitamin D, which is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine,” Dr Harvey explains.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep

“Sleep is the best self-care practice you can easily adapt into your everyday life,” Dr Harvey says. Avoid technology and screens at least an hour prior to bed.

Eat well

“Good nutrition, including a healthy balance of fruit and vegetables contributes to a high level of mental wellbeing,” he adds.


Clinical social worker, Debbi Carberry, says a lot of what we’re fed through the media is negative. Switch off more often.

Ritualise gratitude

She suggests taking a moment each day to think of three things to be grateful for. “It seems trite but the research is really clear. Gratitude actually changes the way we feel.” It works by changing the lens we’re looking through.

Daily self care

Rather than a rare massage, self-care is a daily, essential practice, like brushing your teeth, she says. It’s whatever nurtures you. She suggests writing a regular permission slip, allowing yourself to rest, hang out with a friend, and more.


“Hugging releases oxytocin,” she says. The hormone has antidepressant-like effects. “It’s the most under-rated thing in the world.”

Scent it up

There’s a scientific basis behind the saying: “stop and smell the roses”. Scents like essential oils can instantly brighten your mood, Ms Carberry says.

Switch on some comedy

“Laughing can change the chemicals in your brain,” Ms Carberry says. “It makes you feel more positive and upbeat.”

Quit comparing

Measuring our success according to others can breed pessimism, she says. “We are fed what is success and failure. It’s a lie. Don’t buy into it.”

Schedule less

A swamped life can lead to despair and leave little room for peace and simple pleasures.

“It’s not a badge of honour to be running ragged everyday. We need to pare it back and make conscious decisions everyday,” Ms Carberry concludes.

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