Hi, Carolyn: Lately I’ve noticed I’ve become an angry, suspicious, negative person. I want to tell everyone off. More so since the election, but if I think back, this has been building for at least 10 years. I’d like to blame it on the social media-Twitter-outrage culture and the general coarsening of public discourse. But maybe I’m just becoming a cranky old man.
I don’t like the person I’m becoming. Do you have any specific suggestions for reversing this? I hardly look at social media (except sometimes for comments on news sites) and don’t participate in it, so that’s probably not step one.
And I avoid caffeine except for the 16 espressos.
So, yeah. Maybe stay out of the comments.
And then go on to investigate and address this persistent anger on multiple fronts. Start with a full physical, telling the doctor why. We aren’t a tower of compartments. If your mind feels angry, then it could trace to a source in your body.
And, yes, it is culturally rough out there right now, so see if your reading, watching or socializing habits overexpose you to this aerosol hostility, and phase out any culprits from your life that you reasonably can. Replace that time with something restorative, like a volunteer gig that draws on your natural strengths. The laws of physics be damned – giving of yourself builds more of you.
And, along that same principle, look at your diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Are you sedentary? A snacker? Resistant to anything new? Up late on screens? If so, may I suggest (presuming sufficient baseline health) walking, biking, hiking, yoga, running, dancing, rowing, lifting, climbing, adult league sports-ing, (our preference here). Such activity is a more positive and productive use of your time than rage-dwelling, especially if there’s a community around it, and it also provides a physical happiness boost. For many of us inclined to crankhood, these are life-savers. No exaggeration.
Responsibly cared-for pets can be too, with rescues providing extra hatefulness-reversing properties. (Mine just curled up in my office as I typed this – how cool is that.)
And, see if your spirit is suffering neglect. Beauty sustains. It also waits for us in so many forms that there’s something for everyone. Faith, the arts, the earth, the stars, cooking for people you love. Send your inner cynic on a beer run and see what happens when you let your defenses down.
And, when you’re ready, take a heavier inventory. Your work, your home life, your family connections. Overall, do they add to your life or subtract from it? If it’s the latter, what can you change?
If your answer is, “Nothing” … AAANK. Try again.
There’s always something, even if it’s just changing your perspective on what you gain by not changing a thing.
Be a patient, gentle skeptic of all things you’ve taken as givens, both in the basics of your daily life and in the basics of your beliefs. Certainty makes for entrenchment, and enemies too. See what happens when you consciously choose to let flexibility and kindness lead the way.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.