With all of the acts of terrorism, violence, and corrupt politics, I know I can speak for many when I say that I have started to feel hopeless and paralyzed about how to respond to the world. I have spent much time pausing and reflecting on how to best react to and address the events we have recently faced throughout the world. While we can’t control what happens in the world or the cruel acts of others, we should not feel hopeless. There is good in the world, even if it is necessary to dust off the cobwebs. During challenging times, we can remind ourselves that there are aspects of our lives we can control to stay positive.
What can we control?
Our attitude. Seeing the glass half full or half empty is completely in our hands. We can comment on all the negativity around us, or we can encourage ourselves to crawl through the weeds of negativity to find all the things that make us feel warm inside. No matter how terrible the world may feel, there are still aspects that brighten our days, such as sunrise and sunsets, a hug from a loved one, an ice cream sundae, or planning a vacation. As my grandma always told me: “always have something to look forward to” which will help keep your attitude in check.
How often we watch the news. Over the past couple of months, I have found myself watching the news more often. While it is important to be an informed citizen, I need to constantly remind myself that the media is providing one perspective of the world, one that needs to tell a story and sell commercials. An interesting point I heard recently is that the world is not necessarily worse than in the past, we just have faster access to information with social media spreading the word instantly at our fingertips. If we think back to the early 20th century when only newspapers and radio were available, people would learn updates much less frequently than we do now. We can watch the news and follow social media, but should control the frequency to not dwell on negative events.
Who we vote for. With the Democratic and Republican National Conventions happening in the United States over the past two weeks, we can’t help but think about the future of the United States. I am taking a holistic approach to voting this election, considering not only special interests related to me, but also to my family, my employer, my community, the United States as a whole, and the entire world. I have invested more time and energy into this political season than ever before, not only because I am more aware and interested, but also thanks to my law student boyfriend who often challenges my political views and loves to debate with me. With a broad perspective of the impacts of our president, we may change our voting decisions. We should also not only focus on the president, but also the local elections that will have a more prominent effect on our daily lives.
Our daily habits: eat, sleep, and exercise. When life feels out of control, it is easy to eat too much or forget to eat, to not sleep enough, and to forego exercise routines. Out of control circumstances and stress are very taxing on our bodies, meaning that good food, sleep, and exercise are even more critical during stressful times. As my life gets busier and stress increases, I am emphasizing now more than ever that my health needs to come first for my own longevity. Establishing these daily habits in my 20s will be critical as they will likely be the same habits I will have as I move through the older decades of life.
Our hobbies. Spend your free time doing what you love! Or better yet, do what you love as your job. Hobbies bring joy to ourselves, enable us to meet new friends, and spark the same passion and creativity that we experienced at recess in elementary school. No matter how bad our days are, we can always resort to our hobbies to remind us to have a zest for life.
Our kindness to others. One of my favorite quotes is to always be friendly to others because you never know what they are going through. Kindness is especially important in challenging times, as it unites us and reminds of the human spirit that keeps us moving forward. Smile at those you pass on the street, hold the doors for people behind you, treat your friends and loved ones to lunch, and donate to charity. A small token of kindness can go a long with in brightening the world around us.
Our work ethic. Work hard, seek opportunities, achieve goals, and see results. One of the most rewarding feelings for many people, including me, is success in my career. It goes back to Kindergarden when I loved to receive a star sticker on my test or a smile from my teacher. Now I am grateful for recognition for hard work and empowerment to follow my dreams. Careers can provide us with a consistent and clear path, including promotions for jobs well done, which may help us feel stable when other circumstances are unstable.
Our involvement in the community. Giving back to others is one of the best ways to remind ourselves and others that there is good in the world. Volunteering is one of most joyful life experiences, allowing us to contribute to causes related to our passions, and meeting people along the way. I have had wonderful opportunities to volunteer at A Child’s Haven and through United Way in Greenville, SC this summer. I am reminded to always give back to the community I call home to brighten the lives of others and my own life along the way.
I hope these suggestions help remind us to find areas we can control in our lives to ensure we feel optimistic. I’ll conclude with a strong reminder for everyone: Good Will Prevail!