How To Stay Happy and Sane in the World of Trump

 

There’s a lot of heavy shit happening right now, no matter what side of the socio-political spectrum you’re on and no matter what country you live in. Tensions are high and we’re all feeling it. We’re inundated with social networks and media that prey upon our fears and enrage us—our fight-or-flight mode forced to remain constantly active. And the shit has hit the proverbial fan so well that there’re few places in the planet to flee to. This all leaves us teeming with an abundance of anger and fear that’s just boiling inside, threatening to spillover, affecting all of our interactions and weighing down our consciousness with chaos and stress.

So I recommend getting that shit out.

Find a channel other than Facebook, the bar, and your coworkers to take out your rage. For many, one of the greatest sources of this is exercise(which I’ll touch on shortly). For me (much to the shock of all who know my usually calm and compassionate ways) this is metal music. An hour of Lamb of God, Slipknot, or Electric Wizard while I work at my computer, and I’ve channeled out all the anger away through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) head-bangs and silent roars and screams. Likely you’ll find another avenue that works best for you: maybe writing all the angry thoughts you can think of, or going into your room and shouting at the top of your lungs for a handful of seconds just to release that pent-up energy.

Point being: don’t repress what you’re feeling right now. It will only add up and the negativity will eat you alive. And to help you find ways to stay happy and keep your sanity, I’ve broken down some options into three groupings below:

Allow yourself to indulge in healthy escapism.

Escapism tends to carry a lot of negative connotations in our society, but that’s only because we tend to abuse and overdue it. We drink too much alcohol, smoke too much pot, spend too many hours in video games, watch too much TV, and throw ourselves too recklessly into meaningless sex—all addictive behaviors meant to numb our consciousness from the harsh realities of the world. But these binge sessions in fact only make the world look worse, because once we sober up and return to reality, our over-flushed dopamine neurotransmitters are in withdrawal mode, making it harder for us to feel joy in a world that looks exactly the same as(if not worse than) when we last numbed it.

But by enjoying our escapism in moderate bouts, we get the pleasure without the harsh withdrawal, and our joy remains with us as we enter back into the real world.

And while I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t enjoy a drink or a toke or a good night of consensual sex, it IS important to realize that if you can avoid these drugs and chemical pursuits entirely every now and then, the effect of positivity they bring into your life is even greater. For me, this is most easily done by giving myself over to the escapist joys of storytelling.

Read a book that brings the world to silence and steals you off into a universe of blissful imagination. Play games with friends online and find pleasure in camaraderie as you take out your frustrations in the virtual realm of competition.

Watch movies that remind you of the raw poetry of existence or that inspire your art or that simply make you laugh.

Because truly, there is nothing more important than laughter—that unfettered bliss that is so genuine it forces itself from our mouths even without our consent.

So enjoy those nights with friends that make you laugh, enjoy a pint or bowl, but don’t do it to the point that you blackout and forget all the beautiful laughter you had, stripping yourself of the momentum of joy. And take nights for yourself, time to breathe and relax, time where you get to see different ways society could exist, glimpses of potential that give you a reprieve from the overwhelming news and social networks blasting you with negativity. In this way you stay a positive force in your fight for humanism, a shining example of why we do what we do.

Meditate and Exercise.

It’s estimated that at approximately fifteen minutes of exercise the body starts to release endorphins. These chemicals act as analgesics, diminishing your perception of pain while simultaneously providing a sense of euphoria. In a more specific sense, regular exercise has been proven to:

* Reduce Stress,

* Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression

* Boost Self-Esteem

* Improve Sleep

All of these things are crucial for maintaining a level head and not succumbing to the darkness that Trump is trying to make us wallow in. Also, these benefits of exercise help us avoid the unhealthy forms of escapism mentioned above because we don’t feel like we have as much to numb, so it’s easier to indulge in a healthy way.

Likewise, another way to calm the painful chaos that makes us feel like we need to numb is to meditate: literally turn your mind off and give it some time to relax from this overstimulating world. 

It’s an old metaphor, but consider running a car non-stop at 80 miles per hour all day long versus running it at a breezy 45 mph twice a day for a few hours. Which car do you think is going to last longer? The point is, your brain is an engine pumping chemicals and firing off electrical synapses and reacting to threats and desires non-stop. If you run yourself in the metaphorical red all day long, full of stress, constantly pushing your body to the edge of its breaking point, you’ll ruin your body and mind’s ability to stay stalwart against the barrage of bad news we must bask in these days.

But by taking some time to meditate, you get to clear off the accumulating worries of the day, you get to address and work through the mental concerns that are building up in your subconscious, and literally free up trapped energy and clogs that are causing your body to run in damaging ways—like a car without oil.

And beyond the much-needed break your mind needs from the constant strain of being a human under the barrage of modern stimulation and fear-mongering, meditation also increases neuroplasticity, and this is one of the most important things in the world to have if you want to remain a creative, open-minded, and empathetic individual—which any true humanists should seek to be.

The common definition of neuroplasticity is: the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience.

What this means is that you’re more capable of digesting new evidence objectively, in a way that helps you see from other points of view rather than just from your own. This makes it easier to escape the dangerous emotional tunnel-vision triggered by fear and anger. And this big-picture empathy is key to surviving and thriving in this world of Trump; it’s key to ensuring we are a positive force attempting to build connection and community, rather than an ego-dominated radical who is emotionally-thrashing apart our attempts at unity.

Cultivate Your Passions

If you’re not doing the things that fill you with passion and a love for life, you won’t have any passion or love to give others. It’s so important that, in spite of all that’s happening in the world, we do the things that bring joy to us, things that remind us why we’re fighting. The most beautiful gift we can provide to the world is authenticity, and this comes from the cultivation of self.

This passionate way of living is contagious and is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all whom you interact with. And we need to give each other this gift as much as possible, because the stresses of the world are trying to bring us down by launching cortisol into our body, weakening our immune system and stealing the vigor we need to be healthy and happy—the vigor that gives us the strength to contribute to positive change in the world. And so, without tapping into the things that personally lift us up, it becomes easier for us for us all to become depressed and frustrated with life, which is a state of mind that we most often protect ourselves from by turning to the incredibly dangerous emotion of anger. Cultivate a comfort with self, and then you’ll have the strength to let other’s do the same around you. And when we’re happy and comfortable with who we are, we tend to become humanists and put aside hateful ideologies. So go, indulge healthily, dance and mediate and exercise, and create beautiful art, for you benefit the revolution most when you’re at your finest. 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Steve, I am a clinical social worker, politician, and daily meditator for 32 years. (I also started playing my first instrument, bass, at age 61, which is a great way to stay present.) I have worked in the South Bronx with neonates, worked in methadone, private practice, and more. I have also run for state senate and assembly, as well as working on campaigns for decades. I have seen people work in both arenas without meditating and it is rarely pretty.

    I wrote a book an mediation and activism in 2014. I handed the manuscript in May 6th 2015. I remember the date because I had major surgery the next day due to cancer and I am fine now. Cancer free. But my focus shifted for a bit there. and did not promote the book. Now it is relevant.

    I am writing a second book about now to help activists stay in for the long haul without suffering from stress related conditions. I worked full time on this campaign and saw the slow train wreck day by day as it happened. I’ve met Trump at a Democratic fundraiser in NJ. I am not surprised in the least by his unraveling. I want to incorporate some of your concepts in my book. How do I quote this article and the article on the Science of Happiness?

    • What an inspiration, Jane.

      As you mentioned in your other post, I can’t imagine getting through through all of your endeavors without meditation. I have a friend who is now working in a psychiatric ward, and the emotional drain (likely just from mirror neurons firing in sympathy) alone seems to me nearly insurmountable without some time to recenter the psyche and reconnect with self.

      As far as permission goes, please feel free to quote these articles in whatever way you deem fit (I’d imagine just: Parton, Steven “[Article Title]” CuriousApes.com. Web.)

      I’ve also reached out to you with my personal email via Patreon. Please feel free email me, and I’d be more than happy to work directly with you in anyway I can.

  2. Hi! I’ve been trying to follow you pretty regularly since your Science of Happiness blog went viral. I figured now was as good a time as any to just let you know how much I appreciate your point of view. I am a full time teacher, father of 2, and am attending graduate classes, and it’s extremely easy to feel stretched too thin.

    It seems that each time I’m feeling the stress, I wander onto this blog, and find a reminder to step back and enjoy the little things; to be an active participant in my life. This is something I had come to on my own, but hearing others say it – and back it with science, always feels like wiping away the cobwebs on the whole idea of it.

    I have been struggling with a balance though, and would be interested in your take on it. Since Trump was elected, I have wanted to take a much more active role politically than I ever have before. As a middle class white guy, not much of what he may do will affect me, but it will be detrimental to my students, and people I care about, and the very fabric of our society I value. When I go on any kind of social media, there is so much anger and hostility that I get sucked in. I know that it is all noise, and a waste of my limited attention and time, but I am loathe to stop logging in because it would be too easy to disconnect from the world and live in a bubble for the next- who knows how long.

    Where is the balance between being present in our society, and being effective in our participation, and also protecting our souls? I am trying to Facebook less, and read more- but the constant updates are like a sick addiction.

    Thanks for all your great thoughts-

    Ben

    • Ben,

      First, just let me say thank you for your kind sentiments. It means a great deal to know that these words are resonating–it is, in fact, the sole motivation.

      In regards to your question: it’s so poignant and relative that I’ve decided to create an entire article as a reply. Thanks for providing that inspiration with your wonderful query. I’ll be sure to let you know via this comment thread once it’s out.

      Cheers,
      ~Steven

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