Even the sunniest optimists can't deny that what's happening in the world right now feels a little extra. Consecutive climate change–related natural disasters, wars, human trafficking, mass shootings, crimes against people of color, water rights issues, political corruption and so much more. None of these issues are new, but it's never too late to step up. The world needs all hands on deck. Here's what you can do now to help turn this baby around.
It starts with you. In the famous words of RuPaul, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?" (True, Ru, true.) Be sure to check in with yourself regularly and make sure you're getting what you need to keep your heart and soul nourished. Simple self care is a good start. Once you've mastered that, self healing is the next step. This involves facing old trauma and finding healthy ways to deal with it, whether that's a deep meditation practice or going to therapy. It might be really, really hard, but it's part of every person's journey to heal old wounds. If everyone avoided dealing with pain and trauma, it would inevitably get passed on from generation to generation and create a ripple effect in how individuals interact with one another throughout the world. Heal yourself, heal the world.
Learn, Grow and Be Accountable
No one is perfect. Everyone has made mistakes in the way they've treated others or in taking on learned beliefs that may be hurtful. Being oblivious to this is part of the reason why so many people live in such disharmony. It's so important to feel empathy, be open to others' experiences and recognize how your own actions may be contributing to the problem. And then find loving and constructive ways to make amends. What does that look like? Well, it might mean being a vocal supporter and advocate for people around you who are getting the short end of the stick, or shifting your own thinking and language to squash microaggressions. Be committed to this, and you'll be amazed at the transformation in yourself and in your relationships.
Time is one of most precious gifts you have to offer. Everyone swears they don't have enough of it, but there's always more time. You might have to compromise some screen time, Netflix nights or happy hours, but there are ways to squeeze in volunteering. The trick is to find something that really speaks to your soul and makes you excited to be involved. Volunteering at a local animal sanctuary could be something wonderful to look forward to after work. Love going to the beach? Participate in group cleanups and enjoy a beach day afterwards. Maybe a neighborhood organization that works with local children and families needs help in your area of expertise, which lets you invest in your community and make an impact where it counts. Websites like Idealist and VolunteerMatch are good places to start searching. Do some research, make some calls and see how you can best be of service. It might even uncover your true passions.
Not everyone has an abundance of cash, but if you're fortunate enough to have a little extra, find organizations or causes that you believe in, and contribute. Disaster relief, food banks, animal rights groups, even political campaigns—organizations big and small constantly need funding. But research is crucial. Do the legwork to confirm that your money is going where it's needed. And narrow your giving to only a few causes so that your donations go further and you can more easily become familiar with who or what you're giving to. Look to reliable independent news sources (Democracy Now! is great) to figure out what causes need help now. Charity Navigator is also a good charity watchdog site for finding legitimate places to send money.
Stay Politically Engaged
Apathy and blissful ignorance are two sides of the same coin. Time to get out of that bubble and get involved in politics. The government is supposed to represent you, so you should always be making your interests known. At the very least, that means voting in every election, including the little ones for city council members and oft-ignored local ballot measures (like whether or not dogs should be allowed off-leash at a certain park or if street vendors should be required to have a license to sell food down the block). Attending City Hall meetings and making a public comment when members are voting on issues important to you and your fam is a great way to have an influence right where you live. (Spoiler alert: Yes, the meetings may be a little bit like the show Parks and Rec, so they might not be as boring as they sound.)
Also, call your Congressperson and Senator to voice your opinions often. They need constant reminders that they should be representing your interests, and you have the power to vote them in or out of office come the next election. If you want to really dig in, actively support political candidates you believe in—sign up to campaign for them by canvassing or phone banking. You're guaranteed to meet like-minded people and make new friends that can keep you motivated.