02/09/2011 05:28 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

5 Tools to Help You Focus on the Good

Rebecca Walker shares five ways out of the muck for all those not immediately feeling the happy new year vibe.

Writing Prompt: What inspires you to focus on the good?

The dawn of 2011 has been mixed. Healthy family, busy writing life, and beautiful Hawaiian rain. Watched "Inception" and "I Am Love," two brilliant films that inspired me to no end. Patti Smith's "Just Kids" is bringing me back to the magical vortex of New York -- the mecca where so many of us began on this perilous road of love, life and art. I'm having one hell of a literary visit.

But honestly, I've also been feeling melancholy. I'm working on a book in its one-millionth draft, missing friends 6,000 miles away, and shielding my eyes and soul from the news on more iGadgets than I can shake a stick at -- Twitter and Facebook on iPhone, The New Yorker and The Guardian on iPad, on my iMac. The world is looking bleak, people. Folks losing homes and jobs. America not living up to its ideals. Legos selling Prisoner Transport Vehicles as toys. Our lovely President looking exhausted and defeated.

Sometimes it's so easy to be mesmerized by all that's wrong. My husband says negativity is like a bully on the playground, and he's right. The bully is the same size as all the other kids, but seems so much bigger. Just thinking about that mean kid makes the heart pound with fear. Everything else falls away -- your best friend and good grades, the leftover pizza from Chez Panisse your mom tucked into your lunchbox...

So how to keep our eyes on the prize? How to acknowledge the truly awful, but rob it of oxygen? How to banish that bully and magnetize the coolest bunch of friends a girl could ever want?

Here are my tools to fan the hot flames of everything enlightening and regenerative. These are the ideas that bring me back from the ledge:

  1. Gratitude. Remember what your grandma who lived through the depression always said: "I was upset because I had no shoes, then I met someone with no feet?" Car stuck in mud? Thank you! I have a car. It's not being carried away by a tsunami. I even have Triple A. Thank you!
  2. Equanimity. Look up at sky and breathe. Sky was my son's first word so there's all those yummy feelings, but also the sky reminds me that my mind is big, vast and indestructible. No matter how many clouds pass or tornadoes roar, the sky remains and observes without judgment. It whispers to my frustration: Nothing is permanent. Everything will pass.
  3. Openness. Sometimes when we get hung up on how truly terrible we think things are, the mind becomes tight, like a steel trap; nothing can get in or out. That's the time to remember that openness is a very good option. If we can just get back that simple notion, openness, as in, hey, wait a minute, I can actually be open to another opinion of reality, the hinges start to release, and we can be free again. The good stuff can come rolling back in. Ahhh.
  4. Humility. I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get very jealous. As in, wait, why didn't my book sell 10 million copies? That's where humility comes in. I am who I am. I do what I do. I don't need to be any more or any less. Then, bingo! I'm thinking of all of the appreciative letters I've received from readers and the lawyers I meet who say my lecture 10 years ago changed their lives. And... I'm back on track. I'm just where I should be.
  5. Finally, the most important element to this focusing on the Good is, drum roll please:

  6. Will. Because you can't do any of the above unless you acknowledge how hard it is to change your mind. It's not easy to look at what seems like a hopeless situation and, as Stevie Wonder sang, "find the joy inside your tears." You must engage your will. It's kind of like willpower, but without the "no pain, no gain" part, because even though it's hard to do, exercising this psychic will doesn't hurt because it's connected to your best self, the one committed to personal evolution and global transformation. It's the energetic will connected to your deep sense of knowing. You know that if you don't give the positive the love and attention it needs, it will vanish from this earth, and the rest of us along with it. This will is an essential human muscle. Exercise it and you will be rewarded with a happier you, a richer life, and a healthier world. I promise.

Focus on the good. How's that for a New Year's resolution?


Originally posted on She Writes.