Lately, everything feels wrong. I keep hearing the same sentiment from people on all parts of the political and social spectrum: What is going on with the world? There are countless opinionated answers to that question — you can hear all of them in the comments section of any article on Facebook. But the exact nature of the world’s issues or what has caused them doesn’t really matter. The point is, it’s weighing on us.
As parents, we want our children to grow up in a peaceful, safe world, not one that feels like it’s about to implode. I’m an optimistic person, but even my faith in humanity has taken a beating lately. Honestly, there are days when it feels like it might be easier just to burn the whole thing down and start from scratch. But we can’t do that — we have to figure out a way to live in this world without being dragged down by the weight of its problems. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Here are some ways to lighten the load when the world feels heavy:
1. Stop reading comments on the internet.
I know this is a tough one for me, especially since I write articles for the internet. But the comments section is a virtual cesspool of ugliness, especially on stories that touch on anything the least bit controversial. Comment sections are where sad, desperate, ignorant people with too much time on their hands go to spew bile and vitriol. It’s like the worst debate you can imagine times a million. It will destroy your faith in the goodness of this world faster than anything else. Just step away.
2. Seek out good news.
Remember when we were kids and there were like three nightly news programs on the major networks and a handful of newspapers and that was it? Even then, the news was mostly depressing. But now we are bombarded with countless 24-hour news sources that feed off of our addiction to salaciousness and tragedy. Media outlets create sensational headlines to get more clicks so they’ll get more ad revenue.
Of course, we have to stay informed of injustice and tragedy in the world and do what we can to help, but merely consuming horrible story after horrible story does no one any good. And there are scores of wonderful things happening in the world that we won’t see unless we look for them. Check out optimistic sites like Upworthy, the Good News Network, and Humans of New York to see inspiring stories about real people doing amazing things. That news is no less valuable than the depressing stuff — you just have to purposefully seek it out.
3. Find a way to truly make a difference.
It’s easy to rant and rave and get into heated arguments with strangers on the internet and feel like you’re actually doing something. But let’s be honest: Most of the time, that kind of “activism” either preaches to the choir or causes the other side to dig their heels in further.
What can you do in your local community? What organizations can you support that are actually changing people’s lives for the better? Choose a cause that’s particularly important to you — feeding the hungry, taking care of refugees or veterans, protecting the environment, fighting sex trafficking, providing clean water in developing nations, whatever it may be — and look for ways you can further that cause. If every person volunteered for just one thing, imagine the impact it would have on the world.
4. Learn about inspiring people.
History is full of incredible figures who overcame enormous odds to make their unique, beneficial mark in the world: Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, John Adams, Albert Einstein, Jackie Robinson, Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai — just to name a few. I remember when I first learned about the Holocaust in seventh grade, how utterly soul-crushing the whole thing felt until I started reading stories of people like Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian who kept an estimated 100,000 Jews from being captured, and Oskar Schindler, a Nazi who spent his entire fortune and risked his life saving Jews from the gas chamber. As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” They really are everywhere.
5. Take time for simple pleasures.
This is something anyone can do, no matter who you are, or where you live, or what’s going on in your life. Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Marvel at the intricacies of a leaf or flower. Relish the sound of a child’s laughter. Truly savor the taste of ice cream. Take your family to a park. Be mindful of the moment and bathe in the beauty of simple things. Life is not all complex problems, and replenishing your spirit in this way will help protect you from drowning in despair.
The truth is, the world has always been full of doom and gloom, as well as full of light and loveliness. It’s always been a brutal and beautiful place, and we can choose which part of it we contribute to. If we focus too much on the brutal, we run the risk of becoming discouraged and cynical. As far as I’ve seen, discouraged and cynical people don’t tend to add a lot of goodness to the world — and more goodness is exactly what this world needs.
So focus on spreading love, kindness, hope, and courage. Water the flowers, not the weeds, and encourage others to do the same. This world is ours, and it will become what we make of it — one optimistic heart at a time.