I’ve been hearing about it on NPR, reading about it in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and seeing it on various cable news shows. The story making the rounds this election-year goes something like this:
They’re worried about losing their jobs to immigrants, about the power of big banks, about having their guns taken away. They’re worried about terrorism—including, apparently, many in rural areas of the US, where the chances of encountering a terrorist seem as likely as bumping into Sasquatch.
To all this I say: WTF, America? Why the malaise? We have never been a country of whiners, yet in all of these reports there is an overwhelming emphasis on the negative. No one mentions the abundant good found in our country, in our communities and in our lives. All we seem to hear, in the words of two leading presidential candidates, is that “we are in crisis” and in “serious, serious trouble.”
I, for one, am not buying it. Because when I look around, I see a country that is doing fairly well–and a nation of good people that as a rule are kind, helpful and generous. And while some may believe their lives would be better off if the right man or woman was elected president, I say it doesn’t matter. Whoever our next president might be, it’s going to have little to no impact on our everyday lives. Because the fact is, happiness is an inside job.
“Anyone who starts out to chase happiness will find it running away from him.”
The quote above comes from the American pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick and the universal point he is making is that happiness (or contentment) can only be found within. You especially won’t find it if you’re looking to a politician of any stripe to make life better for you. I’m reminded of the following anecdote, to which I added my own election-year twist:
There was a man who thought that money would make him happy so he built a successful business. But after he had money, he still was not happy. So he sought the companionship of a spouse. But after he was married, he found he was still not happy. He thought children might make him happy, but after his kids were born he was still not happy. So he thought that if only the right person was elected president, then he would be happy…
Enough of my rant. Maybe you are feeling angry and anxious. Perhaps you’re unemployed or underemployed. Or, like me, you’re overworked and putting in 60+ hour weeks. No matter what the issue, there are ways to keep yourself cool and centered. Below are several coping mechanisms that may help.
- Find your religion. Reacquaint yourself with God or whatever higher power you recognize. You can do this in church. Or out in nature. Or through quiet contemplation in your den with the lights out and your feet propped up. You can also start a religion of your own, a spiritual practice that’s designed for you and by you.
- Exercise on a regular basis. When we don’t take care of our body through regular physical exercise, it can have a negative mental impact on us. Run. Walk. Bike. Swim. Lift. Do whatever you can–because a healthy body really does lead to a healthy mind and spirit.
- Chill out with meditation or centering prayer. Spend some time being in the present moment, not looking at the future or the past. I’ve long talked about the value of meditation, but if that turns you off, give centering prayer a try. Similar concept, same results.
- Remember love conquers all. “Give of yourself to your family and friends, be appreciative and accepting. Be willing to say, ‘I love you’.” (John Templeton). Because the fact is when we show others love, like a boomerang, it has a way of coming back to us.
- Fight the fear. Often “the thing we fear we bring to pass.” (Elbert Hubbard). So instead of letting doubt and fear take up residence in your mind, focus on all the good in your life. Replace each negative thought, with something positive. Then, repeat steps 1-4.
This post appeared recently on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos. As I publish it here, the state-of-mind of much of the American electorate continues to baffle me.