Is Your Happiness Affected By Politics?
I’ve written a number of blogs about what makes people happy. But what makes you unhappy? Of course this answer is different for everyone but I am confident in saying very few people thrive in a world where terrorism, the threat of nuclear war and tyrannical leaders fill our headlines. Politics is seeping out of The White House and Ryongsong Residence (the presidential palace of North Korea in case you were wondering) in a way which is beginning to threaten not only the future of our planet but also our happiness. The decisions and statements these leaders are making get published and broadcast worldwide, threats and promises which are declared by the chosen few and yet will impact the lives of billions. Is it any wonder the current political state of the world is affecting people’s happiness?
As a historian, I am incredibly interested in how future historians will look back on today’s world. Specifically, the world post-November 8th 2016. For those of you who don’t know the significance of that date, it was the US General Election. The world of politics is increasingly affecting our daily lives. While I was once content to believe that the social elite we vote diplomatically into power had little influence over our day to day lives, aside from creating the laws and policies which govern our world, I believe their reach has expanded. We are living in a time where extremists on both sides are becoming more vocal and more visible because there is an increasing acceptance of their views or at least a lack of condemnation. While the war on terror has for so long been a term associated with the Middle East, it is impossible not to see the events at the rally in Charlottesville as terrorism as well.
Now, let’s not forget, as Donald Trump pointed out in his unhinged press conference, the Nazis, sorry, the white nationalists, had a permit for their protest. The other side, the newly coined ‘alt-left’, did not have a permit. The ‘bad’ and the ‘violent’ were pitted against one another and, according to Trump, were both in the wrong. There was blame on both sides, he said. But let’s not forget that the white supremacists had a permit for their (racist) rally. The extreme liberals, the loosely defined group which is now often called the ‘alt-left’ were there without a permit. According to Trump, that was behaviour worth noting in light of the death of one of their members caused by the car being driven into their crowds by a white supremacy activist. Domestic terrorism, undeniably.
But Charlottesville is not the only depressing news circulating around the world over the last few months. Guam was identified by North Korea as the first target for their nuclear attacks, should there be further provocation. With Trump as President, that provocation seems inevitable although for now North Korea have retracted their threat. My parents grew up during the Cold War and I remember them once telling me that nuclear war will never actually happen because it effectively requires the country leaders to sign their own death warrants. As soon as one missile is launched, the world will implode. Even with Russia and the US locked in an arms race which lasted for decades, the chances of either side’s leaders, at any time, actually pressing the big red button were miniscule. I mean, you’d have to be insane to do that, right? Good job we’ve got Donald Trump and Kim Il Sung to make sure no stupid decisions are made …
Several months ago, I made an off-hand comment to some friends that I try to avoid reading the news because it’s too depressing. I would, I said, rather be blissfully ignorant of current affairs and enjoy living in a happy little bubble than know all the horrific acts human beings are perpetrating against one another. My friends thought I was selfish for ignoring the plight of others. Perhaps I am. But I am also a happier person. True, the worse of the news still gets to me because of BBC News alerts and Facebook and Twitter posts from friends. I even subscribe to The Guardian’s daily news update and I usually skim over the headlines. But beyond that? What good can it do to be depressed by something you cannot change?
Research has linked happiness with politics, or more specifically, unhappiness with politics. Those of you who read the news regularly are more likely to feel unhappy. This probably does not come as a surprise. We feel powerless, angry and embittered as we read about all the terrible events happening around the world. We become unhappy, anxious and lose faith in society. There are two ways to deal with this. You can follow my example and live under a rock (from which I emerge once a week to write articles for More Good Deeds and double check North Korea still exists). Or you could channel your energy away from reading the news and into doing something which has a positive impact on those around you. Volunteer, donate money or get involved in local politics yourself. If the people at the top aren’t making the difference, take it upon yourself to do the right thing and help others. Your happiness will increase two-fold because you will have less time to scroll through the endless cycle of depressing news and you will also be doing More Good Deeds for other people; making other happier and their lives better through your kind actions.
Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.