The 2012 election left a bitter taste in my mouth, one so bitter that I couldn’t even really celebrate the victories of my candidates. If you’re like me, you’ve never seen the vitriol of an election quite like this year.
The weeks between Election Day and Thanksgiving Day are “betwixt and between” the opposing emotions of fear and gratitude. We can’t quite figure out if we’re mad about the elections, thankful that they’re over or grateful that we never got involved in the first place.
The word "schizophrenic" comes to mind.
I am left scratching my head and wondering why this year? Why are people so hot-tempered? Has it always been this way, and I just haven’t noticed?
The one answer I keep coming back to is this: fear. We’re all afraid of something, and this fear is amplified during election time. Half of us are afraid of the past and want to see progress continue to unfold. Half of us are afraid of what progress could mean and cling to the certainty of tradition. Irrespective of the outcome, none of us can escape the core emotion that drives most of our behavior.
And when we combine fear with deeply held political convictions about how we see ourselves, how we believe others should be treated, and how to collect and spend responsibly, you get a recipe for digging in heels, ranting on Facebook and petty silent treatments.
My recipe for a country divided?
We should all chill the hell out and show some gratitude.
Gratitude is a powerful thing. It can enable you to see a bad situation as something fleeting, even strengthening. It has the power to rewire your brain. It has a cumulative effect—predisposing you to experience even more gratitude. Research shows that gratitude can have similar effects of anti-depressants, even up to six months later. Nothing induces a positive, relaxed state of mind quite like gratitude.
When it comes to showing gratitude, start small. What three good things are you grateful for today? And why? This exercise alone will begin to shift your awareness from the negative to the positive.
As we move toward Thanksgiving Day, I hope your reflections are mostly about what’s going right in your life and in our country, not stuck on our collective inadequacies, things we can’t control and stubborn diatribes that no one wants to listen to anyway.
So, as you’re detoxing from the shenanigans of election 2012, stop and consider what’s going right in your life.
I know I am. Here’s the top of my list:
—(Vegan) food on my table
—A good glass of pinot
—A fulfilling job
—A husband that makes me laugh
And these only skim the surface.
What’s on your list? Let me know @thegladlab.
Dr. Shelley Prevost is a positive psychologist. She is a partner and director of happiness at Lamp Post Group. Follow her on Twitter @thegladlab. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.