If you are happy with the direction our nation is heading, you might want to skip this article because what you hoped would happen during our recent election is happening faster than you could have imagined. Donald Trump is the president of the United States (via electoral college vote, not the American people's popular vote) and, after a week and a half in office, he is unabashedly following through on some of his most contentious campaign promises. They begin with building “The Wall” between Mexico and the USA, and also implementing a Muslim Ban as well as all immigrants coming into America now on hold.
However, if you are one in the majority of Americans who are unhappy with the election and the direction our leader is taking our country, you may feel depressed and anxious about your future as well as the future of our nation and its place in the world. In other words, you may have lost Hope.
In the last couple of months we (Phil and Rose) have traveled separately in the U.S. (including Washington, DC during the Inauguration and Women's March), Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. Everywhere we went, few were joyful while the overwhelming majority expressed their anxiety about the socio-political future of our nation. One case in point: Last month Rose presented Time Perspective Therapy at a psychological conference in Warsaw, Poland to a thousand mental health therapists. Of the 15 presenters, she was the only foreigner asked to speak in person; Phil presented from San Francisco via Skype. During lunch, Rose was seated with Poland’s most eminent psychologists. They shared their concern about our new president, his ties to their political enemy (Putin and Russia), his belligerent foreign and domestic policies, as well as their potential social and economic consequences. Throughout the day, during every break, attendees and people working the event sought out Rose to share their dire concerns. Many had lost hope for congenial relations between our nations despite a long history of camaraderie. In fact, some were mentally preparing for a potential war to erupt.
Back home, we’ve listened to people’s fears for their individual as well as our nation’s future. And each time, we asked them not to give up hope. Our mantra:
This too shall pass
Time is continuous and whatever is happening in the present moment will soon become the past. It might help to remember that each of us has suffered and made it through trying times. We survived, and we thrived, and we will again, and again. Right now, in this moment, there is a world of possibility which can be harnessed to create our brighter future. The following are some ways to stay hopeful right here, right now:
Three ways to stay hopeful
1. Be kind—to yourself and others. This can take many forms. Here are a few:
• Curtail your intake on media—we are constantly bombarded by media with “breaking news” and may feel it’s necessary to be up on everything all the time. Although it might be a feather in our cap to be the first person to hear about and then share some exciting new tidbit, the time it takes to be so informed can take away from living life now. Go easy on yourself. Consider watching/reading a couple of news shows/articles a couple of times a day (once a day is better). Although news reported later in the day is more current, it's not particularly healthy to go to sleep with disturbing thoughts fresh in your mind. So make sure you read, watch or do something that will replace unwanted thoughts before entering a sleep cycle.
• Take mini-breaks—these can be anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, two or three times a day. Shift your focus from whatever you are doing to something that brings you the feeling of happiness. For instance, visually look at the flowers in the office or the clouds floating by or photos of loved ones, or close your eyes and go to your happy place; you'll feel refreshed.
• Practice random acts of kindness—every day! Go ahead and help the elder across the street, or get the item off the top shelf at the grocery store for the person in the wheelchair, or give a sincere compliment to your coworker, or hold the elevator door open for all to enter or exit freely. These random acts will bring a smile to your face as well as the person on the receiving end. Remember: Kindness begets hopeful feelings.
2. Treat each day like a precious gift:
• Express love tangibly—be generous with hugs for loved ones, encouraging words for coworkers, and those acts of kindness mentioned above. The more we express our love, the more deeply we feel it and the more hopeful we’ll be. Practice giving compliments to friends, coworkers, teachers, and service people who deserve the praise.
• Revel in the beauty around you—there is beauty everywhere; sometimes we just have to shift our focus. Notice the color of the sky, the grain in the wood, the water dripping off an icicle, the sound of children laughing, or bird song. Beauty is plentiful, and always there. Realizing there is beauty brings with it a feeling of hope.
• Be grateful—for everything! The roof over our head, food in the refrigerator, the warmth of a sweater, and for the people in our lives, especially our family and friends. Even in the bleakest of times, we have much to be grateful for.
3. Make a difference—perhaps the most important way we can stay hopeful is by making a difference in the lives of others. Here are a few suggestions:
• Volunteer—if you have a special skill, consider sharing it; be a reader at your local school or a helper at a soup kitchen. And if you have a special interest, consider getting involved in an organization that improves the life of others less fortunate. Volunteering puts not only our lives, but the lives of others into perspective. (See link below for info about Phil’s Heroic Imagination Project.)
• Make calls, write post cards—if being social isn’t your strong suit, consider making phone calls or sending post cards to government officials to express your concerns. Millions of people feel the same way you do but most won’t take action. And consider breaking the mold by being pro-social - go on a mass march to openly protest injustices to women and minorities and/or to support science, climate change initiatives, etc. Being pro-active is being hopeful.
• Be kind—it’s worth repeating! By being kind to yourself and others, you automatically make the world a better, more hopeful place and pave the way for a brighter future. The Dalai Lama reminds us often that shared Compassion makes our world more loveable and liveable, but should begin with self-compassion. YOU are the key!
For in depth information about how your life is affected by the mental time zones that you live in, check out our website: timeperspectivetherapy.org, and our books: The Time Cure at timecure.com and The Time Paradox at thetimeparadox.com.
Take Charge! Get in touch with the Hero in You! Check out Phil Zimbardo's Heroic Imagination Project at heroicimagination.org.
Hope: How to find it, Craig Ing, The Huffington Post, 2/8/2013
Eight ways to increase hope, Naomi Drew, beliefnet.com