Graeme and I were at a yoga workshop at the weekend. Often when we go away for the weekend, we stop off at a coffee shop when we come off the ferry in Gourock and we buy a takeaway breakfast. despite the fact that we always have to argue for decaf. coffee to be included in the breakfast “deal” it has become something of a ritual treat when we go away anywhere.

However, that is not the focus of this post.

Whilst waiting for the breakfast to arrive, I noticed a pile of magazines on the counter. Not for sale, they were dog-eared and clearly meant for the sit-in clientele to borrow. When I say noticed, I mean my eyes were immediately drawn to the glaring headline on the front of the magazine on the top of the pile. I actually don’t want to share the headline because even recalling it makes me feel nauseous, but if I say it was one of those cheap “real-life” magazines printed on flimsy paper with a one word catchy title on a red background- you’ll probably know what I mean.

So, this first headline rammed its way into my brain like a bullet. A story of a woman’s gruesome ordeal. A quick shuffle through the rest of the pile (don’t ask me why I did that!) revealed seven or eight headlines  with equal disgust/shock/revulsion status. All presumably designed to pique our curiosity enough to read more. If it piqued my curiosity, I didn’t allow myself to indulge it.  I just turned the magazines over so that  other people didn’t have them staring them in the face at 8 o’clock in the morning, especially mindful that the magazines were at child-eye height.

I also noticed that it had an instant and very tangible effect on how I felt. In That moment, in the early morning, before I had eaten breakfast and preparing to go and do a whole weekend of yoga, I really (really!) didn’t want to know the story that headline was telling me. The headline, however, said it all. I didn’t need to open the pages of the publication to have a vivid image in my mind of what the story had to offer. Now, I am not going to argue as to whether these magazines have any value, or whether printing those stories is right or wrong but there is something to be said both about the words we read and how we feel.

Words (and images)  have a tangible effect on mood. The old saying about “sticks and stones…” is sadly, wrong. Words have an incredible power to affect how we think and how we feel. And the people that write headlines know this better than most. Words affect mood which affects thoughts which again affect mood which affects behaviour and in turn these continue to affect our mood, which affects thoughts and so on… Thoughts also influence what is going on in our bodies. So, if we constantly engage with negative, disturbing, worrying or violent  stimuli, we are continually reinforcing the notion that the world is a frightening, disturbing, violent place.  The perfect emotional conditions where stress, anxiety and depression thrive.

This is not about being in denial about what is going on in the world, it is about being aware that there may be a different way of viewing the world which is not focused on fear, negativity and sensational, attention grabbing headlines. It is also about being more sensitive to the stimuli that affect our moods. Whilst we can acknowledge the realities of war, famine and violence, we can also be aware of the balancing influences of positivity, harmony and peace. Not only can this affect how we feel, it can have a positive effect on influencing change.  Have a look at  Positive News. You may have seen it. In their words: “Positive News is the world’s original and leading positive newspaper. Focusing on solutions, it reports on people and initiatives that are creating a sustainable, just and fulfilling world. Positive News aims to inform, inspire and empower its readers, while helping create a more responsible and balanced media.” 

“Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.” The Buddha