Why You Get to Be Happy When Others Suffer
Maybe you've felt burnt out before from giving so much without seeing the direct impacts of your selflessness. Maybe you've felt guilty before for the fortunes you have in your life compared to the misfortunes of other people. Maybe you've felt helpless and your voice and choices insignificant as an individual person in a troubled society. And maybe you find it hard to stay positive given all the large-scale, systematic issues to resolve in our world.
Yes. I know what you mean.
Climate change. World hunger. Food waste. Child abuse. Labor abuse. Water pollution. Air pollution. Ocean acidification. Deforestation. Species extinction. Biodiversity loss. Urban sprawl. Poverty...
And then there's you and me, here.
When our world is plagued by so many problems, why do we get to be happy?
"Do what makes you happy."
How can we be happy knowing people of the same flesh and bones are suffering near and far? How can we be positive knowing our coral reefs are dying; that giraffes are going endangered; that forests are being destroyed for economic gains and urban sprawl; and that our most basic survival needs like water, air, and food are being contaminated by our pollutants and toxic chemicals?
As an overall optimistic person, I might come off as someone who doesn't get caught up in such woes and worries. But I do. And I used to run away from them instantly in fear of being taken over by them. But now when they come along, I've learned to just be comfortable embracing them and sitting with them for a while.
Because negative emotions are functional.
Through evolution, our brains have become wired to downplay the positives and neutrals and to blow up the negatives because this is their way of protecting us from danger. By pointing out to us that there's a threat in our environment, our brains urge us to use our knowledge and experience to do something about it so we can alleviate our discomfort and retreat back to safety.
The problem, though, is that this function is better suited for our more immediate threats.
For example, if you stand near the edge of a cliff, your brain will likely make you experience fear, telling you to get away from that edge to keep you safe. Or, if you upset a friend, your brain might make you experience guilt, pushing you to mend your relationship so you can maintain a strong social support system.
But what about the negativity we get from thinking about our global, less tangible issues that we have little to no power to immediately resolve? Some of us may end up ignoring them altogether to avoid the discomfort of thinking of them, and some of us may end up feeling constantly drained and burdened by them.
If you're here, I'm going to guess you're one of those in the latter.
The reality, though, is that if we didn't find alternative ways to mitigate our chronic worries, we may just find ourselves trapped in a frozen state of helplessness, making us incapable of bringing about any sort of change in the world or even in our own lives, for that matter.
Alas, Staying in a state of doom and gloom can paralyze us, making us unmotivated, pessimistic, hopeless, un-innovative, uncreative, unsocial, unproductive, illogical, physically sick, and, well, useless.
This is why after acknowledging our world's problems, coming up with small ways we can contribute, and accepting the fact that our little actions will not yield massive, immediate results that will completely dispel our discomforts, we need to allow ourselves to move on and do things that make us happy and healthy as individuals. This is why in spite of our world's issues, we need to look on the bright side to keep our mental wellbeing strong; to do what we enjoy in life to stay energized; to socialize with our family and friends to maintain a strong network of support; and to stay motivated to act on the little things we have control over (even if they might feel trivial) so we can collectively build up momentum for positive change over time.
This is the essence of holistic health. Yes; exercising, socializing, savoring good food, being happy, and pampering yourself may not have anything to do with improving the world, but they will better support you to do it.
As difficult as it may be sometimes, for our wellbeing and the welfare of our world, we need to remember to savor life while making the world a better place.
So don't let anyone bring you down or make you feel guilty when you just want to have a good laugh, to pamper yourself, to "think happy thoughts," to put yourself first, to relive joyous memories, or even to just do nothing.
Because if your goal were to positively impact our world, you have to learn how to positively impact your own wellbeing and mindset first.
Think about it:
It is when we feel good will we be able to unleash our creativity to come up with more innovative solutions; It is when we feel motivated will we be able to power our productivity to take more meaningful actions; And it is when we can envision a hopeful future will we have somewhere to go and something to believe in.
So why do you get to be happy and healthy?
Because the world needs you to be.
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Self-care and holistic health log by Kaméa Chayne, Content Curator of Konscious Whispers and an author, speaker, Integrative Health Coach, and freelance creative. Follow her @KameaChayne and subscribe to KW to get a breath of fresh air delivered to your inbox once a month.