Influential speaker Jim Rohn has famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
And just like our children, we need loving relationships to thrive and to truly be ourselves.
As Stephen Joseph writes in Authentic: How to be yourself and why it matters:
“The importance of [loving relationships] continue throughout our lives into adulthood. To be our best we need empathic, genuine and unconditionally supportive relationships: people who cherish us as we are and inspire us to be our best.”
So it makes sense we need to surround ourselves with good people, people who love us for who we are. Anyone who has ended a relationship with a toxic friend or gotten out from under a really miserable boss understands the sense of lightness and relief that comes when we are free from such negative influences.
The same can be said for other things in life as well as people. Books, television, podcasts, news sites…it’s amazing the difference between mindless consumption of the mental equivalent of junk food and consuming quality material.
For instance, I notice it a lot with how I choose to interact with current affairs. When I click on news stories as they appear in my Facebook newsfeed, I find myself feeling a bit distraught by the state of the world. I also find myself pouring over links and opinion pieces only to find I don’t really care about the subject matter as much as my Facebook friends do. Or, quite often, what sparked a friend to share the story was outrage, and I open it ready to feel outraged myself. I can easily get sucked into pouring over the same information over and over, reading it for the surge of response I feel rather than arming myself with more, quality information or indeed any idea what I can do with this outrage.
But when I choose my news outlets for myself instead of being led by the Facebook crowd, I find I am not only better informed about a variety of issues, I’m also free from that sense of helplessness. For me, BBC Breakfast in the morning with a cup of coffee before getting ready for work and school run is a great start to the day (“news” as my husband calls it, thanks to the fluff pieces amid the headlines) and reading Positive News whenever I can. The positivity gives me a more realistic, balanced view, and a greater sense of agency for the very real problems in the world.
I’m also a big believer that following the news every day to find out what’s going on in the world is a bit like watching the second hand on a clock to know the time. Not following the news online by the minute spares me “news” stories that are basically covering what a lot of people are alleging on Twitter. I can avoid some of the conjecture and the race to break new developments, so that the accuracy of the news is more reliable, less grasping. I love that Positive News is a quarterly magazine – and it doesn’t need to be more frequent to give a sense of movements around the world.
Lately for me, I feel good after watching a rerun of Great British Bake Off or The Crown, or reading Good Housekeeping or The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. When I try to find ‘something’ to watch on TV, or revert back to letting facebook show me what to read online, I don’t feel good when I eventually switch the screen off. I usually feel like I’ve just wasted some valuable time.
Maybe over the next few days, you can be mindful of what surrounds you – not to change it necessarily but to notice it. Is it nourishing you or draining you? It doesn’t matter if it’s “good” in a critical sense – good may be reading Middlemarch or it may well be reading a glossy magazine. What matters is how it leaves you feeling. Surround yourself with goodness and you’ll see and feel it in yourself.