"There is so much wrong in the world that I sometimes cannot handle thinking about it and react with pessimistic thinking and I give up trying."
|You can feel out of control, like being sucked down a chute.|
I’ll be up-front and acknowledge that it’s not easy, but it IS possible to carry on with a more wholesome outlook yet not ignore societal wrongs. What I’ll share are some of the skills I’ve learned over many years. It’s not a comprehensive list, but is a start.
A clear knowledge of your core values is a great place to begin. It’s the bedrock for my decisions whether small or large. In an ideal world I’d base all decisions on my values, as it is it's getting more automatic the longer I do it. (Here's a glimpse into some of my core values and how I incorporate them into blogging.)
The question goes “Is this decision, or action, leading me in the direction of my core values, or away from them?”
This deceptively simple question can lead to an equally, amazingly simple answer. Yes or no. My experience is that there’s not a lot of indecision - there doesn’t seem to be a “maybe” category.
However knowing the answer doesn’t mean the following action is easy. Making choices according to your values can be excruciatingly hard, but it leaves little wriggle room. You’re making a conscious choice to accept or ignore your value/s.
Another way of thinking about this could be: “Is being miserable about the state of the world, to the extent that I am unable to act, leading me toward or away from my values?”
|I'm not going down|
Being aware of undermining words and negative self talk is valuable. What are the phrases you use on yourself that derail your goals and values? Could it be: “Why bother, it won’t make any difference anyway”? When I become aware of the variations on that theme playing in my head, I stop, pause and breathe, three times slowly and deeply. This allows me time to regroup, and refocus on the value I choose to pursue. (More on the power of thoughtful breathing here) It’s a few moments of mindfulness that I know I can achieve.
If the negative words are particularly invasive I can remind myself “Oh that’s just my mind getting stroppy. This is boring! I don’t want to go down that track, it’s not helpful.” It’s like putting mental blinkers on as a conscious, very deliberate choice.
3. Your backpack
Some people find it helpful to visualise putting the negative thoughts, words and pictures into a backback, visualise leaving it by the back door ready to put on when they choose. Others find it more helpful to write about or draw the issue on a piece of paper and physically put it into a real backpack, walk around with the back pack on, then take it off with a deeply exhaled breath. Then stretch as if you’ve taken off a very heavy load, breathe deeply and pursue the one action you want to address in this moment. You choose when to put the laden backpack on again.
4. Sharing with your mates
I've often talked about the importance of sharing when you're feeling overwhelmed with negativity. The negativity could be a chasm of despair, depression, fear or ... (insert your personalised word here). Some of the broad environmental, social, corporate and political issues we're facing, no matter where we are in the world, can be deeply distressing.
When we reach out to others and say something along the lines of: "I'm scared, how are you managing?" it can be uncomfortable. (Yep, that's for sure!) But by learning to be vulnerable we acknowledge our shared humanity. We allow others to reach out and both give and receive support. It's not everything. The pain and fear doesn't magically disappear, but it's a great start.
It can be hard to live according to your core values, but strangely it can help you confront your demons and strengthen resolve when the going is rocky.
- On the importance of small steps, this one to do with movement Happiness tip - Move! here
- A brief slide show with practical tips for supporting happiness choices here
- Training our minds for happiness takes discipline as described by Matthieu Riccard here
What supportive actions would you like to add to this list?
If you suspect you could be depressed please contact your health care professional, Life Line, or other support service.