The antidote to fear and how the coronavirus might save the world

We have to find an antidote to fear. And I know what that antidote is. But it requires a mass movement of people to make an effort to change how they think.

My blogs and videos are always about depression, and you can bet anxiety and depression rates are skyrocketing from this coronavirus crisis.  And depression is rooted in what we believe – what we’ve been conditioned to believe. Changing what we believe requires changing how we think and what we do.

(If you prefer, here’s this blog as a video. The blog continues below.)

There’s so much fear around right now as the world grinds to a halt and we all turn ourselves inside out because of the coronavirus. But if we freak out, we’ll simply get more things to freak out about. We have to change to station.

The antidote to fear is gratitude. The key to happiness is gratitude. Now before you roll your eyes and say something negative… What will happen if we keep saying that everything sucks?

If we want better mental health during this anxious time, we have to be actively grateful every day. We won’t be perfect at it. I’m definitely not. But who cares? It’s about the intention and the effort. We change the world by changing ourselves.

I’m teaching myself to look at everyday things and be grateful. Things I’ve looked at each day but not really noticed. For instance, I’m so grateful that I could escape for a few days last week with my family to a beautiful and safe place. In that place, I wrote most of this blog. I’m grateful I have a back yard that I could sit in to record the video version of this blog. I’m very lucky.  I know millions of people have to shelter at home and are suffering from illness, anxiety, financial stress, you name it. People are afraid of losing their loved ones, their jobs, their savings, their homes, their businesses, their lives. For those of us who already dealt with depression and anxiety before this virus, things have become much more challenging.

I hope you’ll join me in sending out very best wishes to those suffering from this virus in any way, directly or indirectly. Let’s all be enormously grateful for the amazing doctors, nurses, hospital staff, first responders, researchers and government people who are working to the limits of their endurance and putting themselves at risk for the rest of us. Without them, we’d be so much worse off.

As you isolate, please take five minutes a day to be grateful, even for the tiniest things. Gratitude is the answer to the current problem of fear and scarcity. Our societies already had a big enough problem with the scarcity mindset – that thinking that we won’t ever have enough, that we won’t ever be enough, that we have to run like hamsters on a treadmill just to make ends meet. Right now, we can really see that scarcity mindset everywhere. People think they won’t have enough, so they’re hoarding stuff. There’s a frenzy of panic buying. The scarcity mindset was always everywhere in western societies, but now it’s been exposed in a big way – which isn’t a bad thing. We have a unique chance to do something about it.

I’m not meaning to shame those people who are buying tons of supplies. They’re victims, they’re not the problem. We’re all stressed to the max. I had a moment of weakness myself the other day when online I called someone a fucking piece of shit. What that person had done was very bad, but it didn’t excuse my insult. I should have realized that the person did what they did because they were afraid. They’re a victim. I apologize. I’m going to do better.

This virus is making us all scared about what we might lose. Some of us are afraid we’ll lose our lives. But I ask you to stop and look around you… see what you have to be grateful for. In our western societies, we have plenty of food. We have water. We have more “stuff” than we know what to do with. Yet we’ve lost sight of how fortunate we are and how much we take for granted. We’ve been conned by generations of marketing and messaging that we always need more, we always need the latest and the best. The underlying message is that we’re not enough without these things. Especially if others have them. The scarcity mindset. We can’t get enough, therefore we are not enough.

What we put out, we get back. Whatever energy we give out, the universe sends back to us. That means if we think we’re screwed, the universe will send us the same kind of energy and we’ll be screwed. If we think we won’t have enough, we won’t. The universe sees what each of us gives out and sends us the same. So there’s no good that can come from freaking out. Instead, if we are grateful, we’ll be shown good things and we’ll see good things around us. It’s true. Whether you believe you’re screwed or that you’ll be OK, either way you’re correct. So choose what to believe.

Now, to change what you believe, get ready to put in some work, every day. Fortunately, many of us have plenty of time as we hunker down. Should we waste that time distracting ourselves with crap that doesn’t mean anything? Should we waste energy on stuff we can’t control? We can’t change what’s going on right now, but we CAN change how we respond to it.

The only way to combat the scarcity problem is through gratitude. Check out this amazing TED talk about gratitude. It’s what we all need right now. In just 14 minutes, David Steindl-Rast tells us all we need to know about being happy. First, he shows that all of us want to be happy. Every one of us. Second, to become happy, we must be grateful. Not the other way around. We can’t be happy first and then grateful for that. We must be grateful first if we are to be happy.

And third, he shows how to do it… Stop. Look. And go. Stop for a moment and breathe. Look at everything around you. Everything. See all the things you have to be grateful for… even just clean air, clean water, a roof over your head, family, a friend, a pet, a sunny day, a flower, anything. Stop. Look. Then go with the gratitude and action to be grateful and spread that gratitude. In today’s society, we’re all good at the go part. We’re just go, go, go all the time. But now we’re being forced to stop. Now we have a huge chance to look around properly.

Big changes will occur after this crisis is over. This is a chance to change how we structure our societies and change how we think. It’s also a chance to change ourselves. And that change starts with practising gratitude.

In a strange way, this virus might save the world. For starters, we’ve been given a window to change course to avert climate disaster. Carbon emissions are way down and will be for a while. We also have a unique opportunity to make things better for everyone. Out of this crisis governments will change, health systems will be improved, public money will be allocated more fairly, and I hope kindness will overwhelm the awful populist xenophobic movement of hate and cruelty worldwide.

The poetic irony as we isolate is that we’re realizing that we’re all in this together. We are interconnected, all around the world. Young, old, rich, poor… it doesn’t matter what you look like, what faith you follow, who you love, what gender you are… we’re in this together. This could end up being our finest hour.

You’ll have ideas about how to go forward and make a better world. Pursue them. Work for them. Get passionate about them. From the lessons of this crisis, I hope schools will teach our children ways to deal with stress – as part of the curriculum – and teach greater social responsibility. I hope they all teach meditation techniques to children right through school years, especially with a focus on gratitude. I hope they create programs to be more involved in communities at grass roots level. We can learn to focus less on jobs and money and more on being better people who are interconnected and who help each other. We desperately need it.

Too many governments have cut education budgets because the focus is on jobs instead of on being good people in a connected society. Too many educational systems have cut budgets for the arts and other areas they deem not essential. But music, drama, art help us be connected and help us be human. It’s about so much more than numbers and money.

Please watch the TED talk linked above. If millions of us can practice gratitude – every day, for years to come – instead of submitting to fear about scarcity, imagine how we can build a better world out of this current crisis.

Be safe. Be well. Breathe. Meditate. Be grateful. Love to everyone.

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