Activism, Celebrations, and Gratitude Ease Political Angst

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tens of thousands of marchers across the country braved scorching heat to send a message on June 30th, 2018 #FamliesBelongTogether. Our heads reel from Trump administration dictates separating children from parents. This zero tolerance policy is just one of many reasons for political stress today.  Others include:  MAGA rally name calling and bullying; racism that is being exposed on the Internet; gun violence which prompted #MarchforOurLives. The goal of that march aimed to curb indiscriminate gun sales weeks after the deaths of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. 

Given the political climate, how can we find gratitude and why? We owe it to ourselves to cleanse our minds when toxicity surrounds us. We need to move beyond political stress — even while advocating for change — and embrace the good in our lives. Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkeley, noted the following: 

“It’s been presumed that when good things happen, people naturally feel joy for it,” says Fred Bryant, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago. His research, however, suggests that we don’t always respond to these ‘good things’ in ways that maximize their positive effects on our lives. . . . . Bryant is the father of research on ‘savoring,’ or the concept that being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and long run.” Ten Steps to Savoring the Good Things in Life (July 23, 2012.)

July is a time for celebrations, fireworks, and picnics.  Savor these good moments.  Even gathering for a protest march is a good moment —  it gives people a sense of belonging and the opportunity to express a common goal.

When Dr. Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California (Davis) and editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology, studied three groups to determine the impact of gratitude, he found that those in the gratitude group were less likely to experience depression and stress. 

Seven Reasons to be Grateful Despite Today’s Political Climate:

  1. Be grateful that we live in a country where we can protest. And be grateful to the  thousands of young people organizing to do so from schools and colleges and encouraging business professionals and professors to join them.  Be grateful for the #FamiliesBelongTogether March.
  2. Be grateful that there is a mid-term election on the horizon and be especially grateful to the students traveling the country to register young voters.
  3. Be grateful that we have the American Civil Liberties Union to defend the people whose rights are at risk or being taken away and filing lawsuits to reunite children taken from parents at the border.  And express gratitude to pro bono attorneys helping children and families at the US-Mexican border.
  4. Be grateful that we live in a nation enriched by diversity.  Do we show love and perform random acts of kindness to our neighbors or strangers often enough? 
  5. Be grateful for Planned Parenthood, which has long supported women’s health needs. 
  6. Be grateful for more women in politics who will work towards peace, freedom, and a future filled with office holders who deserve our trust and our respect. 
  7. Be grateful that you have the power to re-wire your brain for gratitude. Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., taught us that we simply need to spend three minutes a day or one minute three times a day for 45 days to build a positive pathway. Read how in my talk with her in Train Your Brain for Gratitude: Three Minutes a Day for 45 Days.

This month, people will be keeping the pressure on the administration regarding separation of children and families.  It is a time to remain active. Rally against what you consider to be unfair political decisions. Help people register to vote.  See what organizations need your help. Even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop is sending a delegation to the Brownsville Diocese at the Mexican border on Monday.

Despite these dark political times, be part of a new movement for a kinder nation.  Take time to celebrate and be mindful of ways that boost our well being.  Build resilience.  Celebrate.  Meditate.  Volunteer.  Find ways to bring us back to becoming a more welcoming nation — one that we are proud to call home.

Copyright 2018 Rita Watson


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