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Episode 219: Happiness In A Depressing World


[00:00:00] And hello to you, and welcome to the Richard Nicholls podcast, the personal development podcast series that's here to help inspire, educate, and motivate you to be the best you can be. I'm psychotherapist Richard Nicholls, and this is episode 219. It's titled Happiness in a Depressing World, And if you're ready

we'll start the show. [00:00:30] Hello, you. How are you doing? Things feel quite hard for people at the minute, and I hope things aren't affecting you too much, but listening to clients talk over the last 12 months or so, if not longer actually, but particularly recently, many people are telling me that they're quite dismayed with the world at the minute, and they're kind of losing faith in humanity to look after the world we live on and the people we share it with.

And it is hard to disagree. Often my job [00:01:00] as a therapist is to help people challenge their view of the world. Usually because their view is negatively skewed, and it's making them feel depressed. By helping them to change the way that they think they can change the way that they feel and change the things that they do and so on.

And the old C B T thing, you know, which feeds itself and we all live happily ever after. But, what if they're right? What if actually the world is kind of broken? What if there [00:01:30] are so many people that are either ignorant to reality through defense mechanisms, or they're just plain old, selfish and greedy that oceans are gonna just fill with plastics as Australia eventually just becomes 100% fire and Europe descends into fascism and everybody kills each other off in World War

Three and the rest of the world watches from some state controlled dictatorship that's full of slavery and corruption. Now, 20 years ago, I'd [00:02:00] say that would be unrealistic pessimism, just doom and gloom that's been perpetuated by films like Bladerunner and and Robocop and so on. And although many things do seem worse nowadays.

The fact that we are aware of it now and we can be horrified at the injustices that go on. It's a good thing. I would say we can still be the optimists who can expect things to [00:02:30] get better. We still can have faith in humans to do the right thing, to repair the damage that has gone on. 20 years ago, there was so much chlorine in the atmosphere that it was burning the ozone layer.

And we got upset about it and governments took action and it's repairing. It's slow, but it's getting there. There was a time when literally the air was filling with [00:03:00] lead particles and it had the potential to give everybody brain damage. We noticed. We took action. And it's repairing and it's the same reason we don't really worry too much about polio anymore, or tuberculosis or smallpox.

And eventually, soon enough, Covid. I get that ignorance is bliss, that not knowing about these things can be great for mental health, but this is the 21st century and [00:03:30] we see and hear everything from the flashers in the local park to the cronyism and corruption in government spending. The fact that we know about it and can call them out on it is a good thing.

It's an optimistic thing. It just comes at a cost of our mental health sometimes, because the only way to do anything about problems that we see is to feel bad about the problems that we [00:04:00] see. If we feel nothing, then nothing gets done. So we have to feel bad, and that's a really frustrating irony that the cure for the external problems that influence our mental health.

Is to actually have mental health problems in the first place. So many times people will come to me with emotional issues and they'll say things like, How can I stop feeling like this? And in many cases, we just can't, not [00:04:30] entirely, because those feelings are there for a reason. Emotions exist because the brain is telling the body that something is wrong.

Sure. Many times that signal is too loud and it simply needs turning down a little bit with some psychological education maybe or some breathing exercises and all these mental health tips and tricks that you've heard me, and plenty of others, waffling on about ad infinitum. But to turn our emotions off [00:05:00] completely.

Not only is that pretty much impossible without drugs that are illegal for a reason, but it stops you asking the question of why. Why do I feel this way? And what is it that is wrong that is causing me to feel this way? And what actions do I need to take to fix all of this? And that's why therapy exists to look through your life. Past, present, and future. And learn how to think and feel differently about it.[00:05:30]

So, What if the despair and the hopelessness that we feel is about the external world, the plastics in the ocean, the bullying and hatred that goes on. The zero hours contracts that seem to enslave the workers and the tax avoiding millionaires with their bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, all paying less tax than the guys on the zero hours contracts who are earning close to nothing, relying on food banks to feed their kids.[00:06:00]

And for listeners not in the uk. You know, we've had a bit of a tough time lately, for one reason or another. For the first time in its history. Unicef, the charity that arranges food for starving children around the world actually launched a domestic emergency response for the UK and stepped in to help feed the children here. Because the money that we give to the government in taxes to do that was being spent elsewhere.

This was during Covid and there's a lot going on there that I do [00:06:30] not fully understand enough of it to warrant commenting. We might all be worthy of an opinion, but not necessarily all entitled to it. There's bound to be stuff I don't know anything about, and I need to be okay with that. So here's my point.

No matter what the issue is, whether it's the emotion that comes from grief, from boredom or from anger, it's okay to feel it. It's there for a reason. Feel it, [00:07:00] understand it, accept it, and then do something with it. If you are sad that the world looks like it's turning to crap, then be the change that you wanna see in the world.

If you want the world to be kinder to one another, then be that. Show that, display that to the world. Sean Locke, the comedian, made a joke once that whilst he's at home trying to recycle and washing out [00:07:30] Marmite pots, there's someone else drilling for oil in Alaska and mopping up spills with a seal pup just so that Americans can drive cars the size of bungalows.

As if he's turned up at an earthquake with a dust pan and brush. And I adored Sean Locke. Really did, and I miss his comedy every time I remember that he died. I think because the character that he played on stage is just a total polar opposite to me, and he played it so well, this [00:08:00] miserable naysayer. Yet even the miserable naysayer

is washing out his Marmite pots. Even he's willing to turn up at an earthquake with a dust pan and brush and do his best to help clean up with what little he has, and so can we. I'll say it again. Be the change that you wanna see in the world. If you want the world to be kinder, then be kind. If you want people to be less selfish, then be selfless.

If you want less [00:08:30] racism, sexism, and oppression. Display that. You can't change the world, but you can change your world. Start there and challenge that feeling of hopelessness that says "But what's the point?" Again, remember the C B T principle of the feedback loop of thoughts, making feelings, feelings, making behavior. Feeling helpless [00:09:00] and doing nothing

feeds the "What's the point?" thinking. And that negative thinking feeds the helpless feelings, which feeds the depression. But even with slight actions and working on changing just your tiny bit of the world, it can help prevent the "What's the point?" thinking. Because there is a point. Also, whatever change you want to see, please remember that you're not alone in wanting that change.

This is when social [00:09:30] media can be useful, even if you don't engage with many people on it. You can still use social media to follow topics, not just people. If you follow the hashtag mental health awareness, you'll get lots of people talking about things that might be similar to you. If you wish that people would talk more about the good stuff that's going on in the world, then follow the hashtag

good news, good news only, or happy thoughts, random acts of kindness, that sort of thing. And your timeline [00:10:00] will then be very different, and you can see the world through a bit more of a positive lens and with still a tribal, human approach to it too. With real people, not just websites. Although they could be great too, I'll add some links in the show notes to some sites that only report on the good stuff rather than the click bait, doom and gloom news that we might all be so used to seeing that we don't question it anymore.

I think we'd be astonished if it went back in [00:10:30] time and watched the news from 30 years ago, at just how much the format has changed over the years. So it's great that there are some new sites out there that aren't all about people being murdered or how the cost of living and interest rates are through the roof.

They write about things like which areas of the Amazon rain forest are recovering, how Lego introduced a way of teaching blind children the braille alphabet with the shape of the studs on the bricks, stories about security [00:11:00] guards cycling for an hour to return a woman's lost wallet, and then the community buys the guy a car as a thank you.

That sort of thing. These things happen because the world isn't quite as crappy as the media might make you think. And I get it. Good news doesn't sell. I've talked about it before, haven't I? Lots of people have. That no one clicks on a web link for an article that says Nothing bad happened today or City center not under [00:11:30] threat from terrorist organization today.

We're evolutionarily primed to focus on the things that scare us. Remembering where the bush that often grows berries on is great. From 1 to 10. It's a good 7 on the I'll remember that scale, but the bush that often has tigers in it. Well survivors of a tiger in a bush. Only need to see that the once to put it right at the top of the I'll remember that scale. It's human. [00:12:00] Be aware of it, and don't beat yourself up if you fall into those traps. Just remember to dilute everything down with some good stuff too. I often think that the internet is both the best thing to have happened to us over the last hundred years, and the worst thing to have happened. The jury's out there on exactly how much of a problem social media can be to our mental health.

There are conflicting studies, rather frustratingly. And there always will be. Some people's timelines are filled [00:12:30] with good news because that's what they follow, and others are filled with the highlight reels of old school friends so-called happy lives and it brings them down. But like my favorite phrase goes, Correlation doesn't always imply causation.

If someone has low self-esteem or their life feels empty and unproductive, then other people's outward best life compared to your inward worst version is a [00:13:00] really unfair comparison, but it still will result in a drop in mood. Is that because of social media? Yes and no. The self-esteem and the feelings of meaningless is the real issue, and the social media thing just made it worse.

It's like trying to cure a severe hangover with a five kilometer run. If you throw up halfway around, it's not because of the running. We need to look at the cause of our pain before we blame something else for making it worse. [00:13:30] Otherwise, we could end up missing out on something that could actually be a curative thing. Just like the running of a 5k.

Actually, in that metaphor, maybe the reason for the hangover was because of a lack of meaning in life, no sense of direction, helplessness that sent somebody to the vodka bottle. Well, maybe exercise and getting physically healthy can give people direction and meaning in life. Just like using social media to connect with the right sort of people can help us to feel less [00:14:00] isolated or lonely.

Connecting with other people has consistently shown to be the best way of boosting our happiness and sense of wellbeing. It just needs to be with the right sort of people. Find your tribe if you have to. Maybe my social media channels are a good place for that, or the community section on my Patreon page if you're a patron. Reach out to the world and just say, Hey, this world is full of crap lately. Someone wanna share something good for [00:14:30] a change? And that'd be a great thing to do. I did it the other day with it was just some guys. A video I found of some people in a T-Rex outfit playing in the snow, slipping over and falling over and throwing snowballs and stuff.

You know, those things exist and you just gotta look for them. And when you do. Share them. Now then folks, time's up for today. Thanks again to all my patrons on for your support. Goes without saying that I genuinely could not [00:15:00] do any of this without you, I'm really super grateful that you're willing to contribute to funding my podcast series and my work.

So thank you again. I'll love you and leave you for now. I'll speak to you again soon. See ya.