How To Preserve Your Sanity in 2023

Blog#180- 11/21/23

Richard Davis

Anyone who is even marginally engaged with today’s world cannot help but feel some degree of anxiety watching local and world events unfold. A lot of people have decided to either ration their contact with all forms of media or shut themselves off completely from the near-constant barrage of murder, mayhem and demeaning and hostile rhetoric.

The human species has the potential for creating a peaceful, humane and loving world but most of the activity we see does the opposite. That does not mean that there are not a lot of people who work hard to cultivate what is best in the human spirit, but their efforts are too often Sisyphean.

It’s easy to point out problems and even easier to fall into an endless cycle of negativity. When we see world leaders and wannabe autocrats and dictators create a world in which lies form the foundation for movements it is hard to feel positive about anything. Especially when those leaders are able to grab power and subvert justice to bend to their will. Moving in the opposite direction gets harder when violence in the service of lies becomes a legitimized political tactic.

In order to survive and maintain our sanity in today’s world without hiding under a rock we have to find activities that feed our souls. It is no surprise that mental health therapists have been busier than even over the past decade, treating people with a wide variety of existential anxiety. Therapy can help people gain healthier perspectives, but they still have to find ways to cultivate that perspective.

I have always believed that one of the best places of refuge for the human soul is to be found in the world of sport, on any level. Participation is the best because it requires you to focus on the task at hand and clear your head. Athletes often talk about being “in the zone” and that means that engaging in a sport can be a lot like meditating. The better you get at something the more you are able to eliminate extraneous thoughts and that means holding the madness of the world at bay.

Not all of us can actively engage in sports but vicarious participation can be just as good a mind-clearing alternative. Following professional sports teams offers a person a mini-universe to engage in. It is a place where you can pretend that the only thing that matters is how well the game is played. Sports fans have the option of engaging with teams on all kinds of levels and it offers the kind of escapism that can be therapeutic.

It has been something of a gift to have been raised in the Boston sports hub where all four major sports teams have been national champions over the years. I often think that without my engagement in spectator sports I would have had to resort to years of therapy just to stay somewhat sane.

If you need a team to follow right now I would suggest checking out the Boston Celtics. I have watched them for decades and the team they now have is one of the best ever. It has a lot to do with the combination of talent, hard work and the spirit of teamwork. Just watching a game for a few hours always shuts out the madness of the world for me.

Another way to keep the demons at bay is to play music. You don’t have to be a professional musician to feel the power of music and it is possible to learn to play an instrument at any age. Learning an instrument when you are older is a challenge, but simply making the effort provides a lot of benefit. I didn’t start to play the clarinet until I was 35. It was a struggle and I have not made a great deal of progress over the years. Playing music requires a meditative focus and that means that it is possible to enter a world that will nurture your soul if you let it. Every note is a stepping stone to a garden of beauty, no matter what level you are on.

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