We are living in turbulent times and it’s only natural to crave some certainty in world affairs – as well as our personal lives. But if our home world is challenging enough, the problems of the wider one often seem beyond our influence. In recent times, political strife has brewed up a cauldron of polarising views. While the support of others can instil a sense of togetherness, it can make enemies of those not sharing our beliefs. Seeing things in black and white terms – as right or wrong – can be distressingly divisive.

Looking on the bright side

If we can’t control the external world, how can we control our happiness?

Our inclination is for an optimistic take on events, but there are good arguments supporting both an optimistic and pessimistic viewpoint (see link below). A better understanding of allthe perspectives can be a valuable way of reducing frustration and also by remembering that extreme views are notrepresentative of a majority.

Historically, upheaval, suffering and conflict were often the norm. The oldest members of our community faced invasion by hostile foes. Most of our ancestors lived in times of plague, war, and religious intolerance. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes described our lives as largely ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

But we now live in a country that helps the neediest – even if it struggles to do so sufficiently. Certainly, we have the technology and knowledge to enable healthier, longer existences – and more choice to pursue them. While inequality grows, our living standards have in the long-run grown across the board. Our hard-pressed health service, for example, remains the envy of the world. Our cups may not be overflowing, but they are filled higher than those of almost all our predecessors. The threats of terrorism and environmental destruction are huge problems, but politically and economically, our country remains one of the world’s most affluent and free.

One important antidote to our current social malaise may be for us to re-connect with what we have in common with those around us rather than our differences.

If you’ve ever watched Gogglebox, it’s a reminder that regardless of gender, religion, culture and age – most people are decent, likeable and sensible! Perhaps it’s the circumstances rather than the people that are the real problem.  Spreading the love in small ways has a positive psychological value as well as making the community a happier place. The power of a smile or kind gesture to those less fortunate can be wonderful therapy to both giver and receiver.

Strong communities are often founded on a sense of common purpose and an ability to draw on all its rich influences.  Though turbulent times may have inflamed difficulties and harsh feelings about different classes and cultures, being a builder of little bridges within your own communities, forging compassion and tolerance, can help heal these rifts.

In times of strife, some seek refuge in habits bringing short-term consolation such as alcohol, drugs, or comfort eating. Others deal more directly with the issues by voicing their discontent. How we do so involves treading a fine line between easing or adding to the problem.

If you’re struggling to identify solutions to your worldly stresses, your friends and family may help you discover what you can and cannot more usefully do with your life. Local counselling services can provide a professional neutral space to helpfully review your ambitions and contributions to the world. Small changes in our home world can make a positive difference. Ultimately, following our dreams after identifying what we can control immeasurably improves our sense of well-being.

Finding and pursuing our hobbies and passions is probably more important than as these can bring personal satisfaction and  help work off the frustrations of matters outside our control.   Life can seem less oppressive on accepting that you can only do your best and know that you have endeavoured to do so. We can choose to see the world in a rosy or gloomy light, but only one of those options tends to make it a better place for all.

Useful links

An interesting piece discussing the surprising advantages of not taking a realistic viewpoint: https://psychcentral.com/blog/pessimism-vs-optimism/

Some good insights on what you can do to improve your world – if perhaps aimed at the entrepreneurial community: https://medium.com/the-mission/how-an-ordinary-person-can-make-a-difference-in-the-world-c4327991a9c4

Helping in your community. www.hounslowhub.org.uk/hounslow-community-network/

Along with local counselling services, some information on dealing with stress: www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/