How to Cultivate Hope in Today’s Challenging World

From Music to Therapy to Unplugging, Here's How to Keep Negativity at Bay

If you are battling feelings of apathy and hopelessness in the modern world, don’t worry, you aren’t alone. A lot of people feel that way a lot more of the time than I think any of us would like to admit. So check out today’s post where I examine why today’s challenging world makes us feel so hopeless. Why it isn’t necessarily the case that we should feel that way, and different ways that you can cultivate hope in your own life!

exhauted woman with kids running around in the background
Today’s world is certainly challenging, but don’t give up, there are many ways to cultivate hope in your life!

Why Does It Seem Like Today’s World is So Challenging?

No, It’s Not Just In Your Head. There Are Tons of Stats That Validate Your Emotions

There is no doubt that we are all living through challenging times right now. Wages have been stagnant in the U.S. since the early 1970s. While worker productivity increased 61.8% between 1979 and 2020, those same workers' wages only grew 17.5%. One third of the rate of their productivity. The amount of American households that make up the middle class have shrunk from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. In the time that middle income families saw a 42% gain from 1983 to 2001, and lower income households saw an increase of 67% (and remember these numbers aren’t adjusted for inflation) upper class homes saw a median wealth increase of 85%. The wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. In 1989 the richest 5% of families had 114 times as much wealth as the middle class, by 2016 it was 248 times.

And all of this is before Covid happened. By the time the pandemic ended in 2022 the richest 10% now owned 76% of all the world's wealth. We still aren’t anywhere close to universal healthcare. In fact medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy for American households. We don’t have paid family leave. We don’t have paid leave period.

We also have mass shootings all the time. I mean it’s just kind of constant at this point isn’t it? I mean they don’t even register as national tragedies anymore unless it's at a preschool like Uvalde or a church like in Pittsburgh. And to be entirely honest, I’m not even really sure how many wars we are currently engaged in anymore.

Inflation was recently at the worst it has been since the 1970s and while it’s started to slow down, there hasn’t been any sort of deflation whatsoever. Since just the other day there is now a trillion dollars worth of credit card debt in the United States for the first time ever. And to help drive even more inequality, since the 1970s tuition at “non-profit” universities jumped an alarming 2,580% with no apparent end in sight. So now the country has nearly 2 trillion dollars in student loan debt as well.  

We’re burning the Amazon RainForest faster than ever before. The Ice Caps are melting faster than scientists predicted while gas is at $4 a gallon. And we seem to be doing little to nothing about climate change. And Trump blew up the national debt by $7.8 trillion dollars in 4 years (right after Obama added $7.6 trillion dollars over his 8 years) and now after all that when Biden added another couple trillion our national debt topped 32 trillion dollars which is 10 trillion more dollars than our country's entire GDP.

And on top of all of that, since 1999 there has been a 781% increase in people who died from preventable drug overdoses. In no small part due to the trafficking of fentanyl over our borders. And in 2022 more people died by suicide in our country than at any other point in our history. And just as we managed to make it through a “once in a century” pandemic and wages were finally starting to rise, the Fed had to start jacking interest rates up way too fast (they voted 10 consecutive times to raise rates and jumped them 5 whole percentage points in a little over a year) so now cars and homes are more expensive and more unaffordable than ever before.

While at the same time there is an oncoming wave of millions of job losses due to AI and automation that is drastically going to alter the economic realities of our country as soon as 2030. And all of this is happening while the hallowed halls of our democracy are just reveling in their own corruption.

So at the end of it all, yeah, you could say that today's world is challenging.

But don’t lose heart! There are many ways to cultivate hope in today’s challenging world.

woman with headphones using music to cope with current events
We are fed a constant barrage of bad news by the media so sometimes it's ok to take a break from the news!

TV and Social Media Thrive on Feeding Us the Bad News

But There Is Also Plenty of Good News That We Just Never Hear About

Here are some stats that I like to keep handy to remind myself that the news is always showing us the bad news and leaving out the good news. But there is plenty of great news out there. Here are a few facts I always like to remind myself of whenever the modern world starts to bum me out.

  • In the past 25 years, more than ONE BILLION people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. And the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been recorded. The number of people living in extreme poverty has basically been cut in half
  • Since 1990, more than TWO BILLION people have gained access to safe drinking water
  • In 2016 over 87% of the world’s population had access to electricity -- up 16% from 1990
  • Although we have extreme income inequality in the West, global income per person has actually doubled since the turn of the millennium --largely due to the emerging middle classes in both China and India who have enormous populations over over 1 billion people each
  • Global school enrollment since 1970 has grown by almost 20%... In low income countries around the world, now 60% of young girls are finishing primary school!
  • In the West, female political participation has more than doubled since the year 2000.
  • Global capacity for renewable energy has grown by 80% since 2010
  • 80% of one year old infants have received at least one vaccination globally
  • A record 123 million kids got vaccines in 2017
  • From 1960 to 2017 life expectancy grew from 53 years to 72 years
  • And in 2023 the medium life expectancy for men in America is 81.6 years
  • And the medium life expectancy for women rose to 85 -- An all time high
  • Between 2000 and 2012 global actions to prevent and treat malaria averted an estimated 3.3 million deaths -- mostly preventing deaths of children under 5
  • In the 30 years between 1990 and 2020 infant mortality rates were cut in half (Down to 2.4 million in 2020 from 5 million in 1990)

These are some of the most important stats I can think of when it comes to feeling hopeful about the world we live in. I’m certain I missed some important ones, but these ones really paint an uplifting picture.

man meditating for mental health
Exercise and meditation are two great ways to elevate your mood to help you cultivate hope!

How to Cultivate Hope in Today’s Challenging World

How to Use Music and Other Techniques to Feed Your Spark of Hope

And hey if you still aren’t feeling hopeful, I get it, that’s all a little macrolevel and big picture. So if all of those positive facts that show that the world is in fact getting better don’t help you cultivate hope then I would give something else a try and bring it back to the personal level. It’s important to practice self-care and seek out professional help if it is actually needed.

One great way to put your mind at ease and cultivate hope is by listening to music. Music has been shown to slow our heart rate and breathing rate as well as reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. It also stimulates that part of our brain that releases dopamine which will just all around improve your mood and help you feel more hopeful.

Music also increases our ability to empathetically understand the world and makes us feel more connected with other people. And when you lose hope in the world, you can always find a spark of that hope in the people that you love. Music can even be played or listened to together, which makes it an excellent way to cultivate hope and spend some time with a loved one.

If you really want to feel hopeful then I recommend making a playlist of all the songs that really get you pumped up and feeling positive and then doing a light workout. The combination of music and physical exercise can do an enormous amount to elevate your mood, release dopamine and endorphins, and help you feel hopeful again.

And if that doesn’t work I would put on some uplifting ambient music and do ten or twenty minutes of meditation. Taking care of your physical and mental health can go a long way in helping you cultivate hope.

But if nothing is working and you are feeling hopeless all the time, it’s probably time to seek out professional help. Music therapy in particular can be a great option to help eliminate feelings of apathy and lack of interest in doing things you love!

woman playing piano as a part of music therapy
Playing music or listening to music can be a powerful tool in helping you cultivate hope in today’s challenging world!

In Conclusion; In Today’s World You Have to Cultivate Your Own Hope

I hope now that you are at the end of this article that you are feeling a bit more hopeful about the world. I understand how challenging life can be right now. We live in a time when 4 in 10 Americans are unable to afford a $400 emergency expense. So I understand that things can seem so bleak right now. But the night is darkest just before the dawn. And dawn is coming my friends.

But in the meantime getting some positive facts about the world in mind can help mitigate the negative news the media feeds us. And using music and some light exercise can be a really good way to elevate your mood and inspire some hope in your heart!

Anthony Stockton
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