Don’t Let Politics Derail Your Happiness
The intersection of politics and happiness can affect your well-being. Don’t let it.
You’re enjoying some much-needed social interaction after a long quarantine. Everything’s going great until somebody brings up politics—blame or praise of a certain elected official, perhaps, or a brazen view on sensitive issues.
Suddenly your blood is boiling and you try to respond tactfully but somehow it comes out with a tone. Next thing you know everyone is either arguing or looking like they want to crawl under the table. The joy of the gathering is gone. You let politics derail your happiness.
Or how about this scenario: it’s Saturday morning and you’re sipping coffee on the patio, listening to the birdies chirp. The weekend is finally here and you don’t have to rush. You reach for the phone and start scrolling Facebook when BAM! relax mode is ruined. A friend you thought was cool has posted something ignorant and you feel the anger rising. You wonder if you’ll ever see them the same again.
Politics has derailed your happiness!
It is impolite to bring up politics or religion in mixed company, but nowadays it’s downright dangerous. The debate has become so charged, and views so polarized, that holding strong opinions puts us at risk of alienating ourselves from friends, family, co-workers, clients, even mainstream society as a whole. Even if we never open our mouths, the agitation we feel inside when we watch the news or listen to bigoted people laughing at un-funny jokes can be so destructive to well-being. How can this be avoided? How can happiness be preserved in the midst of contentions? Whatever the answer, don’t let politics derail your happiness.
It’s important to understand the root cause of why we get upset. We all have our views, and that’s as it should be. It’s quite correct for us to want to make sense of the world and consciously navigate it according to our values. But the trouble comes when we cling to our views as part of our identity. The ego gets involved and we feel personally attacked whenever someone disagrees. We generate negative feelings, maybe even lash out in an argument, which goes against our well-being. Or perhaps we feel that it is our duty to stand up to injustice, so we get angry or sad on behalf of wronged parties. Again, we are personally identifying with the situation and feeling unhappy when it does not go how we wish. To understand our emotions, we must always look for how our egos sneak into the picture and cause us suffering. Ego is politics and happiness is well-being; they often are a friction point.
True altruism is devoid of ego. It encompasses love, tolerance, patience, and equanimity. It never uses negativity (anger, sorrow, fear) as a means to an end. Rather than judging or hating the opposing side, it seeks harmony, whether through reconciliation or simply by live-and-let-live detachment. It is content to work for a good cause and have faith in the results, even if they aren’t immediately visible. It knows when to take a step back to avoid burnout, and how to honor well-being in the midst of the fray.
It’s wonderful to get involved and make the world a better place. Politics and happiness do not always go hand-in-hand. But if along the way we find ourselves becoming angry, hostile, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s time to reevaluate how we’re going about it. Whatever work we do should be undertaken with a basis of kindness, compassion and true altruism. Not only will this preserve our happiness, it will make us more effective. This is all-important in the pursuit of ultimate well-being. Here are a few practical tips:
- Perspective is important. We get to live in a democracy; many don’t. Be thankful that at least people care.
- Set boundaries with people, technology and other sources of potentially inflammatory information. Don’t engage with them first thing in the morning, immediately before bed, or anytime you are already feeling rundown.
- Try to consider your own views as something apart from yourself, abstract ideas that are likely to shift and change. Are your ideas ignorant? Are they substantiated? It’s tough to face them sometimes. They are not absolute truths but subjective opinions. They are not absolute truths but subjective opinions.
- Consider the views of others as not defining who they are. Try to separate the views from the person and acknowledge that they could have other wonderful qualities. If they are someone you can’t avoid interacting with, try to engage with the things you appreciate about them.
- Accept the possibility that you could be wrong. Always question your own stories and be open to listening to others.
- Know that changing your opinion is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of growth. Both politics and happiness can be enhanced through perspective and an open-mind.
- When you know better, do better!
- Rather than complaining, roll up your sleeves and do something! Volunteer in your community, make an artistic statement, join a discussion group, donate to a charitable cause. When you feel confident in your role, you are less likely to get discouraged or judge others.
- If you find yourself getting testy, negative or overwhelmed, take a break! Disengage and turn to grounding, restorative activities until your battery is recharged.
- Reflect deeply on the highest truths you hold and return to them every time you start to lose faith. It can be easy to get discouraged in the face of all that is happening, so we need a deep tap-root of core values to keep us from toppling over.
Don’t let politics derail your happiness!