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SALT LAKE CITY — It is easy to feel powerless against the recession. Headlines are rife with doom, and we have control of almost none of it: unemployment, the housing market and the national debt. Here are four ways to help you overcome depression and hopelessness despite the stream of negativity.
Recognize Your Emotions (Don't Cover Them)
It is important to acknowledge sadness, hopelessness and worry. These feelings are not merely uncomfortable emotions — they are guideposts to feeling better; a divining rod to their belief system. Don't just slap a plastic smiley face over your pain but feel it and learn from it.
Positive psychology teaches that each emotion is feedback to us about our underlying belief system. It is here that we find choice and empowerment.
Recognize What You Can't Control
We do not have control over the world or national economy, but we do have control over our own belief system.
Replace negative statements with “As long as I am doing my best, I am okay,” instead of feeling shame. This could lead to not only hope, but possibly pride because your focus is on your efforts and not the outcome.
Whether suffering job loss, death of a loved one or a personal failure, we can always choose how we weather the storm.
James Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sail.” You might imagine that one person who believes he is helpless against the storm of the recession would have a very different feeling than the person who believes, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” ("Invictus," William Ernest Henley)
Realize What You Can Control, And Take Action
- Expressing gratitude
- Practicing acts of kindness
- Nurturing relationships
- Savoring life's joys
- Practicing religion or spirituality
Info: The How of Happiness
After people have told their story and properly honored their feelings, they might be open to discussion about what they do have control over, rather than lamenting about what they do not.
Research has proven that when people feel that they have no control, depression often follows. This is why it is important to turn discussion toward what one does have control over.
Depression immediately begins to loosen its grip when we explore what is possible rather than lament over the lie that “there is no hope.”
Realize That Happiness is a Choice
We may not have control over the economy, but we do have control over our pessimism. A bad outlook is only a habitual belief. If you believe yourself to be a born pessimist, you will behave accordingly, making no effort to change. Pessimism can not only poison one’s attitude toward braving the economic storm but it can adversely affect decisions that might have helped to pull you out of it.
For instance, if one says, “What’s the point in applying for the job? I’m not going to get it anyway” and he does not apply for the job, then his prediction comes true. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.” Hope is always a choice.
Focusing on these activities, which you do have control over, will help you to feel empowered. Focusing on what you do not have control over will likely lead you to feel helpless and disempowered. There is much in this world over which we have no control — including the recession — but we always have control over our own positive attitude. You always have a choice.
Frank Clayton is a clinical mental health counselor specializing in happiness. He has been teaching a free positive psychology class to the community called Happiness 101 for nearly four years.