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  • Melissa Sims

Focusing on the Positive

It’s been an interesting few weeks here in the United States. As we celebrate our nation’s independence, there are some very stark reminders that our country is in a state of heightened political unrest and division. I’m not sure about you, but maintaining a positive outlook and a sense of gratitude is feeling like an uphill battle lately. 

However, it is precisely during these challenging times that such an approach is most critical. The United States is currently experiencing significant political and social shifts, underscored by recent decisions from the Supreme Court that are poised to impact millions of Americans. Against this backdrop, mindfulness emerges as a crucial tool to help us stay centered, focused on the present, and able to let go of the things beyond our control.

The political climate in the United States has been turbulent. Recent developments have only intensified the sense of instability and division. Key issues such as healthcare, reproductive rights, and environmental regulations are at the forefront of national discourse, influenced significantly by recent Supreme Court decisions.

One of the most notable decisions is the Supreme Court's ruling on reproductive rights. In a landmark decision, the court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly half a century of federal protection for abortion rights. This ruling has resulted in immediate and widespread impacts, with several states enacting strict abortion bans or severe restrictions. The decision has not only ignited protests and debates across the country but has also highlighted deep-seated ideological divides.

Another pivotal decision involves the court's stance on environmental regulation. In a significant blow to federal oversight, the Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. This decision could hinder the United States' efforts to combat climate change and could have far-reaching implications for environmental policy.

Then we have a decision that pretty much legalizes the use of “gifts” given to officials, but only when given after the decision in question. Our Supreme Court has also now broadened the power of a sitting president, giving them immunity for crimes committed when considered an “official” act. This is a massive change in our system, and will no doubt have far-reaching effects for everyone, regardless of party preference.

These decisions, among others, are reshaping the political and social landscape of the United States. They underscore the importance of staying informed and engaged while also highlighting the necessity of finding personal equilibrium amidst the chaos. I feel like our country is changing and it is going to be turbulent for quite some time. 

During such times of political unrest, focusing on positivity and gratitude can be a powerful counterbalance. Positivity does not imply ignoring the challenges or injustices around us; rather, it involves a deliberate focus on what is good and what can be appreciated in our lives. Gratitude, on the other hand, allows us to recognize and cherish the positive aspects of our lives, fostering a sense of contentment and resilience.

Research has shown that maintaining a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can significantly improve mental health. It can reduce stress, enhance mood, and even strengthen the immune system. By cultivating these attitudes, we can build a buffer against the negativity and uncertainty that often accompany political turmoil.

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment, is an invaluable tool in maintaining positivity and gratitude. By focusing our attention on the here and now, we can avoid being overwhelmed by worries about the future or regrets about the past. The rumination in my own head right now can get a bit out of control. Are we turning away from democracy? Are our rights in jeopardy? I have to stop myself and stop making up stories about what could happen. It’s nothing I can control right now, and it is nothing that isn’t going to be there tomorrow, and the next day. So I have really been flexing my mindfulness skills in the recent weeks because I really don’t think I can mentally cope without them. 

I will admit that lately I have been getting sucked into the news. So when I catch myself ruminating and saying a lot of "what ifs," I log off and stop reading news stories. When I just start thinking about politics randomly, or get sucked into a conversation about it, I start to think about how great our country can be without all of the noise. If that doesn’t help, I turn to deep breaths, walks, even meditating. 

One of the key tenets of mindfulness is the recognition and acceptance of things we cannot control. Political decisions and societal changes are things that affect each of us, but we don’t really have much control over them, except for our vote. While it is important to stay informed and engaged, it is equally crucial to recognize the limits of our influence.

By letting go of the need to control external events, we can reduce our anxiety and stress. This does not mean becoming passive or indifferent; rather, it involves focusing our energy on actions we can take and accepting the outcomes with grace. Engaging in activism, voting, and community involvement are all ways to channel our energy positively, without being overwhelmed by the larger forces at play.

During times of political unrest, community support can be incredibly grounding. Surrounding ourselves with supportive and like-minded individuals can provide a sense of belonging and mutual encouragement. Communities, whether they are based on shared interests, beliefs, or goals, can offer a space for collective healing and action. It’s also important, however, to take time to spend with those that are not like-minded. It helps control our implicit bias, and allows us to open our minds to other ideas and perspectives. We can still respect those that don’t agree with us, and in order to do so, we must try to understand their ideas.

In the face of political unrest and significant societal changes, maintaining a focus on positivity and gratitude is more important than ever. The recent decisions by the Supreme Court have underscored the volatility and divisiveness of the current political landscape, affecting millions of Americans in profound ways. However, by embracing mindfulness and focusing on the present moment, we can cultivate a sense of peace and resilience. Let's try to focus on those things that we love about our country, and less on all of the noise and distraction, even if for a brief moment. And if we can't do that, we can focus on that which is in front of us, in the current moment.

Mindfulness helps us to let go of what we cannot control and to respond thoughtfully to what we can. By practicing gratitude and staying connected with our communities, we can navigate these challenging times with a sense of hope and purpose. While the external world may be in turmoil, we have the power to create an inner sanctuary of calm and positivity, one mindful breath at a time.


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