It has been a long year so far. In times of uncertainty and unrest, how can we stay positive?
Personal wellbeing is vitally important – not just for us, but for the animals and people we’re working to help. To improve the lives of animals and people, we need to make steady progress over many years or even decades.
Whether you volunteer for animals, work full-time as an animal advocate, or are simply a compassionate citizen, burnout can happen. It’s even more difficult to stay optimistic when every day we see new, visible injustices across the world.
To help animals and people in the long-term, we need to look after our health and happiness in the short-term. Sometimes, taking a step back now ensures we are prepared for a great leap forward in the future. Maintaining our passion for our work means we can achieve more over our lifetimes. Furthermore, people are far more likely to follow your example if you’re leading a passionate, happy life.
Focus on what you can control
The world has experienced near-miraculous improvements in many domains over the past centuries and decades – health, wealth, peace and democracy have all seen startling improvements. Yet despite this injustice does remain. And the reality is that there is more injustice than any one person can solve alone.
The paradox is this: even though no individual can solve the world’s problems, the solutions do manifest when we all work together. While the big picture always remains out of our grasp, what we can control is our own effort.
As the biologist, environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai (right, sourced from Wikipedia) wrote in her extraordinary memoir:
‘As women and men continue this work of clothing this naked Earth, we are in the company of many others throughout the world who care deeply for this blue planet.’
When we focus on the effort we put in, and our role as part of an entire community of hard-working animal advocates, success becomes possible.
Look for the good
He’s a singer-songwriter, he’s a social activist, he’s an avocado farmer: Jason Mraz is back with a newly released song, and he reminds us to look for the good.
Good news is more common than you’d think. The gloom that streams out of news channels and social media feeds isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of the state of the world; there is scientific evidence that these sources of information are biased to show the negative. This means that the good news – the recovery of eagle populations in the United States, the continued transition towards renewable resources, and human rights improvements in the developing world – is almost always overlooked. Fix this bias in your own life by subscribing to news feeds that publish these success stories.
Keep an eye on the efforts of the Animal Justice Party and, in particular, our elected Members of Parliament. In New South Wales, Emma Hurst has been leading a parliamentary roundtable on protecting animals from domestic violence. Mark Pearson has been chairing an inquiry into animal cruelty laws and how they can be improved. In Victoria, Andy Meddick has introduced a bill to establish a new, modern wildlife-rescue authority. If podcasts are your preference, you can listen to Andy and his team here.
And look for the good in your own lives. For me, this means switching off my social media and instead spending some quality time with my family, or digging into a new novel, or even just watching the clouds from my front porch. The good is there.
Speak to someone
If you’re feeling worse than normal, there’s always somebody who can pick up the phone to listen. I find it encouraging and refreshing to chat to friends and family, even if it’s just a reminder that we’re all in this together. Help is always available – if you’re in Australia, check out the different options here.
by Ben Kluvanek