Many people in the UK woke on the morning of Friday the 13th of December 2019 feeling the date was an appropriate one. Our country voted to endorse the Conservative manifesto, which for those more left-wing in their thinking, felt like a betrayal of the values of openness, inclusivity and protection of the rights of the disadvantaged and the marginalised.
Leaving the EU
Indeed it seems certain that the UK will now leave the EU and there is a possibility that the union will break up with Scotland seeking to separate from the UK. Many people feel devastated by this. I too feel a sense of dread. However, as in other difficult situations Positive Psychology (PP) offers hope.
Focus on the positive
PP seeks to find what makes life good and worthwhile, whatever the circumstances. I think a crucial initial thing to remember is that those who voted differently from “us” (in whatever direction), did so because they truly believed it was the right thing to do.
Free from suffering
I believe all people want to be free of suffering and hope to make the world a better place for their children. Our personal experiences, knowledge and values mean we might differ in our beliefs of what makes the best route forward. That does not make anyone bad or even wrong, none of us knows for sure the impact of our choices on the future, it simply makes us human.
What we know from the science of PP is that our circumstances do not dictate our well-being. This does not mean that we should not try to alleviate circumstances such as poverty that can be detrimental to well-being. However, it does mean that our actions are what is important in being able to make a difference to our own well-being and this has a ripple effect, both direct and indirect on those around us.
Now is the time to examine our values and be sure we act in accordance with them. We can choose to be bitter about our political climate and focus on divisiveness or we can look for opportunities for gratitude, compassion, forgiveness and service which have all been shown to improve well-being.
Our personal integrity and choices about how we act towards others and the world has not changed because of a free democratic vote (whether you think the system is fair or not and there are many places in the world less fair!).
Studies of resilience show us that trying times challenge us to stretch our strengths and provide opportunities to learn about ourselves and to grow.
Models of hope suggest that being able to envisage our goals for ourselves and our society and generate multiple creative pathways towards these solutions is what reinforces a sense of hope. Using this sense of willpower to keep going and try a different approach when we encounter problems is fundamental to our progress.
Acknowledging the negative
Some of us feel we’ve had a bad week and it’s OK to acknowledge those feelings of despair for a few days but turning that energy into a way forward rather than allowing it to consume us is what PP is about.
So we will get up, pull together and try to find creative ways forward towards our goals in line with our values because that is being true to ourselves which is important for our well-being and there are people more vulnerable than us who need us to do this. I maintain that however you voted this approach is a core feature of being British.
About the author: Sarah Monk