Emotions have been high this past week, heck, they've been high for most of this election. Social media has been busy supporting and negating both sides of the results, as have friends and families. It's been stressful, to say the least, and people have been telling one another how they feel and how they should feel. In my health class I teach a chapter on Psychological Health. It's a sensitive topic that students find interesting but also disconcerting. Nearly everyone has or will have a mental health issue (anxiety is the most prevalent) in their lives and yet, no one wants to feel like a crazy person. Depression is a common mental health issue but at the other end of the spectrum is mania. www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm My observation is that many are swinging like a pendulum between the two. Once you begin to study mental health, you realize how dramatically it impacts every part of our lives and how we can work to improve.
A little empathy might go a long way in restoring personal relationships that may be suffering and create a ripple effect. Empathy does not mean you have to like or agree with what another is feeling but that you can imagine how they are feeling. It is recognizing the joy of winning and the sadness of loss and not being a sore winner or loser. That may be an oversimplification but it is a place to start. People want to share their feelings on social media and that's where things get tricky. This interesting article on social media research shows that some mental health issues can be exacerbated but that some, like empathy can be cultivated. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703102510.htm
I think intention goes a long way in terms of feeling understood. Many people just want to be heard, to share their opinion and discover they are not alone. The ability to convey your thoughts without the benefit of visual cues such as body language can be challenging. Social media works great for simple issues but the more complex the issue, the harder it is to interpret the intention of the author. Most people struggle with confirmation bias, including me, and that means we can't access our empathy. If we are too busy being right and pushing our agenda, how can we consider or even hear the thoughts and feelings of another, let alone understand them? learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4
People get to feel the way they feel, no matter what side of the issues they sit on. Being elated because you see an outcome as favorable is valid. Feeling grief that things did not go your way is also valid. www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_Z3lmidmrY More importantly, being able to process feelings in a healthy way is necessary and empathy may be the way to get there. We like to check things off of our to do list, but emotional health usually doesn't work that way. Like exercise, consistent application yields results. We need to access our ability to be patient and kind with ourselves and others even if the way we show empathy is to scroll on by without a "like" or comment. Empathy may be the key to opening the door to better communication, less stress and improved mental health. To learn more, see below:
Lots of great information about empathy at Greater Good, the science of a meaningful life.