Hold on tight for the ride…

Sep 06


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Helen Whitten

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Hold on tight for the ride…

No-one said life would be easy but for sure it is about to get harder for us all, here in the UK, for those in Europe, and for many people around the world. Putin is intent on that. It’s a perfect storm of events, following a global pandemic, and our leaders, including our new Prime Minister, are going to need to keep their heads and, hopefully, cooperate and collaborate to keep the world at peace, and to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable do not suffer. We are all going to need to draw on our inner resources.

How do we do that?

Well, I guess we’ll need to budget and prioritise what we choose to spend our money on. But I believe it is our thinking that is going to be the most important resource for us to call on. Catastrophising, that thing the media love to do, is not going to help us. Being realistic, planning and adapting stage by stage, step by step, is. And, as I have mentioned before, I am greatly in favour of being a ‘rational optimist’: staying in the real world but noticing where we can rationally and reasonably feel optimistic and positive. This can bolster our confidence that we can manage the situation rather than convincing ourselves that we can’t. “I’d rather this wasn’t happening but I can manage it one way or another” can be a helpful mantra.

It’s easy to spend our life saying, “I’ll be happy when …” or “I’ll be happy if …” and miss the moment. Yet sometimes things do unexpectedly change for the better. Keep a watchful eye out for this.  But if things do get worse, then we will not have squandered the moment worrying about what might happen and be more energised and capable of managing whatever does transpire. So, let’s not run Hollywood disaster movies in our heads. It just keeps us up at night and that doesn’t help our ability to think clearly or positively.

A friend told me a story yesterday of an old lady who happened to be sitting in a café in the countryside and the man next to her sighed and said, “I can’t believe that just at the moment I sit down to enjoy my coffee the sun goes in!” The elderly lady looked at him and reminded him, quite forcefully apparently, of how lucky he was to be sitting in a nice café under a safe, if cloudy, sky, and not struggling to survive in the floods in Pakistan, or taking shelter from bombs in the Ukraine. The man looked sheepish and was grateful to her for pointing this out to him.

The news focuses on the negative, on those who can’t cope rather than those who have found ways to cope in difficult circumstances. The tendency to ramp up the fear factor is not good for us – it doesn’t help us make good decisions, and it lowers our immune system. Anxiety is not good for the brain or the body. And it certainly won’t be everyone who is affected in the same way by the rise in inflation and living costs, but some people will be adversely affected, and it is those we should be focusing on and helping. I hope the government gets this message. Surely, giving handouts to everyone deprives those who need it most.

The financial markets are greatly influenced by the moods and emotions of the people. Let’s remember that there are always opportunities to be had even in a recession. We need to believe in the inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders who may innovate to solve the world’s problems, including climate change. These could benefit us all.

To keep ourselves going, we can gain happiness from very simple things – being with family and friends, watching a sunset or a new moon. We may choose to spend on a momentary treat, but long-term happiness is surely arrived at by focusing on our personal values and by treating others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. As a child, having my parents’ attention for an hour or two playing a board game or reading a story together, gave me as much pleasure as some gift or holiday, both of which are transitory. A parents’ love and attention stays with us for life.

Let’s be clear, Putin wants to break the West. He wants to divide us, plant as much disinformation as possible into the system so as to discombobulate our minds and make us disgruntled, despite the fact that conditions in our country are some of the best in the world. So, I feel we should decide not to be divided and to call on our inner resources to withstand the hardships that may lie ahead, as the Ukrainians are doing. We can disagree on all kinds of issues and debate them but let’s stand strong against his efforts to disintegrate Western society.

To break up, at the instigation of an empirical dictator, what we have achieved in the democratic world makes no sense to me whatsoever. Let’s not let him get to us and split us. Let’s rise above that. Let’s show him that we will work hard to protect the world from a war that could destroy all the comfort and advances we have achieved.

For me, gratitude is a powerful reminder of the changes I have seen in my 72 years. I think many are unaware of how much harder life was here in the UK only a short time ago, so perhaps it is a time for people to look at Youtube videos, or read books, about life a century ago, or even less, and notice the comforts, rights and benefits that have been created during this time. We don’t have to believe in any specific religion in order to look around, notice and even list where we can feel gratitude. This can unite us and help us through the next difficult months. As Marcus Aurelius said,

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

So, notice where those thoughts take you – to a positive or negative place – and realize that you are the one who controls that focus. It can change the quality of your life, your health, and your decisions. Hold on tight and good luck!


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