An endless pandemic, worsening natural disasters, escalating gun violence, mental illness on the rise and unchecked anger—is it the end of the world as we know it?
For more than 10 years REM’s song by that title was my show’s opener each and every week. We’re living in a time when uncertainty and chaos seem to be the order of the day and where we’ve seemingly lost the ability to work towards the common good for all. Take the mask issue, for example. America has gone mad over masks!
Schools across the country have become protest zones with parents screaming at school board members over decisions that younger, unvaccinated children wear masks in classes to protect them from Covid. Watching the nightmarish scenes of protestors yelling angrily in unison while threatening other parents is like watching a B-rated horror flick where the mindless mob has been taken over by some force of darkness. Where is all this anger coming from? And are so many people in this country that selfish that “their rights” trump everyone else’s rights? Are these “liberty-loving” parents so focused on their own individual rights that they’re willing to risk their and their own children’s lives during a national health crisis?
Science has shown getting vaccinated and wearing masks, socially distancing, and washing your hands are the way out of the pandemic. But the days of trusting science, reason, logic and truth have given way to times of deep distrust, disinformation, and conspiracy theories expounding the frightening and frivolous. Rather than working together as Americans against a common enemy, we are becoming more divided, leaving us all vulnerable to a virus that doesn’t care what your political party or rights are.
Speaking of rights, what about the rights of all the frontline doctors and nurses to stay safe and be able to go home and be with their families instead of spending countless hours and days at a time trying to save the lives of those who refused to get vaccinated or wear masks? And who is paying for the unvaccinated?
While the argument regarding vaccinations and mask mandates comes down to the level of risk that’s appropriate to impose on Americans and how much should be left to individuals to decide, with the Delta variant’s surge the calculations have shifted. With vaccines being easy to obtain and free, those who choose to go unvaccinated and not wear a mask are the ones almost entirely ending up in the hospitals now, imposing a cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Under our current system of risk-sharing, we’re all bearing the costs for those who choose not to step up and do what is best for the greater good of all. And those costs will continue to mount in other ways as well. With so much Delta circulating in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people currently, we are inadvertently exerting selection pressure for new, more dangerous variants to evolve. Currently, 90% of all counties in the U.S. are now in substantial or high levels of Covid transmission. It didn’t have to be this way! It was avoidable—we’ve had a get out of jail card with the vaccines and masks!
But here we are…facing surge on top of surge of the pandemic while we’re also heading for a climate-induced legitimacy crisis. Both of these threats are dire and no one on this planet is immune.
As a result of the global pandemic and climate crisis we’re witnessing an unprecedented opportunity, a call for transformation—of human society to reset the relationship between people and Nature. We are at a critical moment. We must work together to build momentum for transformative action to address these major crises of our planet and restore balance and harmony with Nature. This is the way we provide hope for a more rational, just future based on truth, science and respect for all and this is why my opening theme song is now Huey Lewis’s “The Power of Love,” for Love is the strongest unifying force in the Universe.
Remember to teach only Love, for that is what you are. Be kind to one another, for we are all in this together. We are not separate from one another just as we are not separate from Mother Earth’s living systems as a whole. The more humanity exploits Nature in unsustainable ways and undermines Her contributions, the more we undermine all of humanity’s well-being, security and prosperity. Please, remember, teach only Love.
JOIN Barb and John as they discuss One Choice: Fear or Love.
For the past several years, John J. Higgins and I have been talking each week about the mind-boggling political and cultural changes we’ve seen happening throughout this country in an attempt to help you understand why it’s so important each and every one of us do our part as citizens to become informed and recognize the clear and present danger before us. We’re living through unprecedented and trying times—the pandemic, the rise of nationalism, an insurrection, systemic racism, gun violence, and the climate crisis—each on its own is enough to cause major stress and fear but together, simultaneously, they have thrown us into a dark chaos unlike anything any of us have experienced in our lifetimes.
While it is important to reveal the people and all the other things that threaten our way of life and our American democracy, it is equally important not to become part of the problem by focusing on those things solely each week. It is time to shift the perspective and focus on how we begin to change the narrative within ourselves and, ultimately, this nation and humanity as a whole.
We are in perilous times and there seems little any of us can do to change things. While we may not have control over what is happening around us, we do have control of what happens within. Every moment of every day we have a chance to begin anew, to make a choice for something better for ourselves. Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl spoke to this when he said, “When we no longer are able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
So where do you begin? Start by focusing on what is good in your life right here and now. Focus on being grateful for what is valuable and meaningful to you. Clinical studies have shown that practicing gratitude is good for your mental and physical health as it can help you relax and see things from a more empowered perspective. The effects of gratitude can also help you stay well not only during the pandemic, but help you retain or regain your health. There’s a reason such sayings as “count your blessings” and “stop and smell the roses” endure…they’re not just clichés but actual activities that can enhance your quality of life.
For example, practicing gratitude can boost your physical health benefits. Medical studies, including those by the American Heart Association, have found that practicing gratitude can improve your immune system, which is especially important during the pandemic. Even those with compromised immune systems have shown improvements when they practice gratitude regularly.
And we don’t have to look far to see we’re in the midst of a mental health crisis in this country—suicides, depression and anxiety are rampant and on the rise. Studies by the National Alliance on Mental Illness have shown that people who practice gratitude have a significantly lower risk for major depression and anxiety disorders as well as much lower risks for substance and alcohol dependence and abuse. Beyond that, the National Institutes of Health have shown people who focus on positive emotions and are grateful have greater ability to cope with stress of all types and set themselves up for success because they have better self-awareness and take better care of themselves.
The beauty of practicing gratitude is that it’s free (and freeing), easy to do, doesn’t require much time or energy, and results begin immediately!
Oh, but you have nothing to be grateful for, right? The cat died, you’re alone and isolated during the pandemic, you’re in a loveless or abusive relationship, you’re facing eviction from your home, you have such-and-such dis-ease and on-and-on. Start small. Get up in the morning and realize that you are still alive with the prospect of a new day before you where all the old ways of the past don’t matter. You are here NOW with a fresh start, a blank canvas. Paint a better picture for yourself. Be thankful you are alive and able to get up and have a new day and start. Shift your focus to the little things you have in your life that you may be taking for granted. When you eat, be mindful, take time to appreciate what you are eating, and eat slowly and savor every bite—not only are you practicing gratitude, but you will also be eating in a much healthier way which has a myriad of health benefits.
At the end of the day as you ready for bed, take a moment to reflect on all the positive things that happened during your day. Research has shown that counting blessings rather than sheep leads to a better night’s sleep which can lead to better health all around. Can’t think of anything? Smile or laugh, either or both will shift things within for the better!
The more you focus on positive moments, the more those positive moments come into focus for you! What you focus on in life is what you get more of, so watch your thoughts as to what you’re bringing into your life!
We are all teachers and students, and we must remember we teach that which we want to learn. Each and every one of us has a choice of experiencing peace or conflict, truth or illusion, love or fear. Love is what’s real–it’s our natural inheritance. Fear, anger, hatred, pain and hurt—all are manufactured in our minds. When you practice gratitude and with it, forgiveness of self and others, you will begin to experience periods of profound peace you never dreamed possible. And even when you have times when you feel upset or fearful, with practice, those times will become much less frequent. You can move from being a victim of the world to accepting responsibility for what you perceive and for the emotions you experience.
The National Alliance on Mental Health has found that people who practice gratitude are more selfless, generous, and helpful to others. They are more likely to offer emotional support and are also more likely to forgive.
If ever there was a time when these traits were needed, it is now, for when the power of Love overcomes the love of power, the world will finally know Peace.
JOIN Barb and John as they discuss Your Choice.
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