Five steps to stop sinking into despair about the state of the world

Five steps to stop sinking into despair about the state of the world

Right now, the world feels a bit awful.

The pandemic continues. War looms large. Global warming worsens.

It’s normal to feel gloomy about the state of things, but we know full well that sinking in despair isn’t a healthy approach.

The key is not to bury your head in the sand, pretend everything’s great, or force yourself to slap on a smile.

But what we can do is look for the positive, challenge those negative thought spirals, and pull yourself out of the pits of misery.

How, exactly?

Grant J Ryan is the author of Comparonomics: Why Life Is Better Than You Think. Ahead, he provides five steps to feeling a touch less miserable about the world.

Don’t pretend the past was perfect

It’s easy to romanticise the past as an idyllic paradise, which inevitably makes the present day look less rose-tinted.

Grant recommends reminding yourself that actually, the past might not be as great as we’re remembering or imagining, and we’re much better off today than you might think.

‘The old days feel good, but health is so much better now that we live about 10 years more than we did 50 years ago,’ Grant tells

‘We all have goods and services that a billionaire couldn’t have 15 years ago: high-speed internet, unlimited streaming music, and video, virtually free communications, information, photography all sorts of medicines (vaccines!)

‘You are likely in the 1% of richest people to have ever lived.

‘Even on significant social trends, while far from solved, it has never been less sexist, racist, homophobic than in the past.

‘Be aware of the reality of how good things really are compared to the past.’

Understand that negativity is normal – but try to balance it out

‘While many things in the world may be better, it is common to feel gloomy,’ Grant explains.

Try to remember that a tendency towards the negative is often simply down to how our brains work. You’re not a failure for feeling glum.

‘Negative stories stick in our heads more,’ notes Grant. ‘The folks at FutureCrunch said it beautifully, “negative news is like Velcro on our brains while positive news is like Teflon”.’

Negative experiences and stories tend to get shared more, too. Think about it: how much more likely are you to complain about something online or to a colleague than you are to say that an experience was nice, whether it’s your usual coffee order or your train being on time?

We can try to counteract this by sharing positive stories when they happen.

‘Next time when someone complains about dealing with the council, a utility company etc, notice how normal it is, to complain,’ suggests Grant. ‘Try responding with “I’ve talked to several folks at utilities, council, etc and they were all lovely”.

‘We love the stories about how rubbish things are and skip over the ones where things are good.

‘Be aware of our natural tendency for negativity.’

Ditch doomscrolling

Grant likens social media to junk food – ‘you can dip in occasionally’, but it’s not good to consume it non-stop.

You don’t have to quit the internet entirely – often online spaces can be a force for good.

Instead, it’s about being a little more mindful of your time spent online, and recognising when your habits are making you miserable.

Essentially: scroll if it’s bringing you joy, but quit the doomscrolling.

Get excited about how we can help the environment

It’s easy to drown in a sea of worry about climate change, and to feel like tackling it is insurmountable.

But what if we flipped that around, focusing on what we can do instead of stressing about what’s out of our control?

Then, what if we got excited about our options for making a change?

‘With climate change, some solutions are going to be cheaper than polluting alternatives – we just have to accelerate doing something about it in the short term too,’ says Grant.

‘If you believe life is gloomy and a struggle, then any additional cost seems like a burden. Once you realize just how good the rest of life is then a 0.2% reduction in GDP to solve climate change seems like a bargain.’

Stop status-seeking

‘Loads of people seem to be doing so much better than me, so there must be something wrong with me’ – this is a belief that Grant says too many of us hold.

‘Seeking to be high social status seems to be a core part of human nature,’ he notes.

‘But not everyone can be in the top 10% – status-seeking is an unwinnable game for most people. We are all just people getting by.

‘The solution: just don’t buy into the status game. It’s not winnable and it’s remarkably freeing to completely reject it.’

Comparonomics: Why Life Is Better Than You Think, And How To Make It Even Better, by Grant J Ryan, is due to be published by Big Idea Publishing in February 2022.

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