The Silver Lining
Happiness in troubling times
by Jamie Nishi
Are you getting tired of hearing about nothing but doom and gloom - the economy, the wars, the credit crunch, the housing bust, banks dissolving, industries collapsing, species disappearing, the earth warming? Whether or not you've been affected by any or all of the above, if you think about it too much, it could very well start feeling like doomsday.
While it's important to acknowledge the gravity of things, it's just as vital to glance over in the other direction. Is there a silver lining? Of course - there always is! If you think about it, uncertain times can lead to a better way of life. We know it's not easy to ask yourself questions like: What can I bring away from my experiences? How can I enact positive change in my life (and in the world) based on these experiences? But those types of questions are the key to a silver lining.
A plan to really do it! When looking for one, it's helpful to remind yourself that there are few creatures more adaptable than humans. Put people in the unforgiving Arctic, and after enough trial and error, they'll figure out how to live, raise families and even enjoy life. Put them on a desolate rock in the Atlantic, and they'll learn how to make the most of the resistant land and the ferocious sea. Our capacity to cope with change and adversity, to face challenges and still go on living full, meaningful lives is one of our most amazing attributes.
So, instead of embracing doom and gloom, embrace change and welcome new ways of thinking and living. The following 5 steps can show us how troubling times can get us to think differently and move forward in positive ways.
1. Wake-up call
For many, the economic crisis has been a wake-up call. No longer can we take our way of life for granted or believe that it is guaranteed. Hopefully, these hard lessons will lead us to a greater appreciation of what we do have and allow us to see how fortunate we are. Now, it's time to take responsibility for our way of life - or change it.
2. Age of responsibility
While it's impossible to live a harm-free existence, there is a growing awareness of how the choices we make impact the world around us. More and more people are trying to behave responsibly, integrating new practices into their daily regimes like buying locally grown food whenever possible and forgoing plastic bags in favor of reusable totes. The underlying principle is conservation and less waste -a low-impact life that can also be a more affordable way of living.
3. It's cool to save
As a result of the credit crunch and mortgage crisis, we have entered into a new age of responsibility, transparency and accountability. People are more aware than ever of how important it is to live within their means. Saving is actually cool again. Even if you can't save, you can use good practices by slowly paying down high-interest debt and resisting further credit spending. Take advantage of employee benefits, if you have them, such as a 401k or a flexible spending account. Or set up your own retirement plan with automatic deposits, so you "pay yourself first."
4. Back to basics
Paring down can be one of the more liberating experiences in life. With the economic slowdown, there is less focus on materialism and more on making the most of what you already have. That can't be a bad thing! Instead of indulging in consumerist behavior, people are coming back to the hearth. You can still indulge in your nesting instincts - staying in, cooking at home, reading or doing personal projects. These activities can enrich your life and keep your pocketbook safe at home.
5. Creative thinking
Necessity is often the mother of invention. Challenging times call on our stores of resourcefulness and creativity! As old industries die out, new ones take shape. Just look at the excitement over green industries. We might be in a slump, but we're also in a fertile period of transition. Latch onto some of that excitement and channel it into your own life. Being flexible about what you are willing to do can be a great asset. Maybe you'll find ways to work more cost-effectively or increase sales. Or, who knows, maybe you'll find work in one of these exciting new fields.
Trying times really do bring out the best in people and can bring us together as a community. We can look at this moment as a great opportunity for change - if we work together. Talk to your associates, friends and relatives. See what kind of support or assistance you can offer each other. Business may be slowing down, but it doesn't mean you can't keep making connections, building your network and helping out wherever you can. It might be difficult, stressful and challenging - but by focusing on some of the positives, we can get through it - together