America Has an Anger Problem – Can Better “Mental Nutrition” Fix It?

America is a pretty angry place these days. Formerly respectful spaces like school board meetings have become bitter battlegrounds. Some people are harassing healthcare workers and threatening restaurant staff for enforcing COVID protocols. Others are openly furious with the vaccine-hesitant. Everyone, wherever they stand on the (deeply divided) political playing field, is outraged about something.

Sure, anger is part of the human condition, but have things always been this bad? Elaine Parke thinks not—and she has a plan to get America the anger management tools it needs.

“We’ve stopped listening to one another because we’ve become addicted to our own narrow and sometimes selfish points of view,” says Parke, author of “The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time” (Outskirts Press, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-9772-4276-1, $21.95, www.12habits4allofus.org). “And we seem to have lost sight of the notion that we’re personally responsible for our own behavior.

“It’s way past time for us to take a collective deep breath and treat others with dignity, respect, and civility—and listen to them—whether we agree or not,” she adds. “It’s urgent that we make this shift now.”

Dialing down our ire is easier said than done. We are living in extraordinarily stressful times. But there’s more at play. Parke says we are shaped by the messages we consistently consume—and in today’s connected world, a lot of those messages come from our digital diet.

“Social media isn’t solely to blame for stoking our emotional flames—in fact, it was designed to be a source of information and to bring people together,” Parke clarifies. “But if your newsfeed is making you an angrier person, it’s on you to either log off for a few days or reassess the kind of content you’re engaging with. When we choose to focus on stories that are positive and nourishing, we go a long way toward resetting our emotional equilibrium.”

Parke’s “The Habits of Unity” is her attempt to help people take charge of what she calls their “Mental Nutrition.” Much in the same way that we (hopefully) approach the food we eat, we need to develop the discipline to make more nutritious mental choices every day. Her book’s 365 “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals make it easy to hardwire these choices into habit.

With her simple, doable framework for uplifting ourselves, boosting our mental health, and practicing unity, Parke hopes to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month. The idea is that the sheer force of all that concentrated positive energy sparks a unity revolution that rises from the ground up and sweeps the nation.

Yet, until that happens, we can leverage the power of  “The Habits of Unity” on a personal level by forming one good habit per month:

January: Help Others

February: You Count

March: Resolve Conflicts

April: Take Care of Our Environment

May: Be Grateful

June: Reach Higher

July: Become Involved

August: Know Who You Are

September: Do Your Best

October: Be Patient and Listen

November: Show a Positive Attitude

December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends

Those who’ve tried it say the plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so you’ll want to keep doing it. And there’s a ripple effect. As you become more positive, centered, and respectful, others will be drawn to you and your relationships will improve.

“As these ripples expand, they will improve the emotional climate in our country and make it easier to seek common ground, instead of lashing out,” says Parke. “But we can’t sit around waiting for others to take action. Each American must recommit to making our country a welcoming, affirming melting pot—instead of a stewing pot.”

Refugee Aid: A Global Effort

As social workers, we are dedicated to helping those in need of becoming empowered to emancipate themselves from their situation, disposition, or oppression.  There are as many forms of social justice callings as there are forms of clients, collectives, and societies. As a macro-based social worker, the calling to facilitate global change for refugees has a particularly strong gravitational pull. There are 45.2 million displaced individuals in the world, in dire need of the most basic human needs. The majority of these collectives receive no attention in our national media circuit and are often left desperate and without hope.

refugeOne of the few situations gaining media attention is in Uganda, where South Sudanese refugees are debating never going back to their homes because of how harsh the current living conditions are.  Ethiopia is also getting many South Sudanese refugees (roughly 93,000) that are finding a small sense of peace in the Gambella Regional State.  All of these refugees are in immediate need of help and support from the international agencies and governing bodies.

The most prominent refugee situation that has captured global attention has been the Central African Republic crisis.  Masses of people are in need of basic resources to survive.  Roughly 70,000 have been contained in airport grounds in substandard conditions. Disease and lack of food run rampant as these people struggle to escape the violence and oppression in their homeland. Despite UN efforts to deploy thousands of troops and police, the basic needs of these refugees still are not being met.

These individuals deserve to begin the healing process and gain a sense of security. When we hear about these events, we may cringe with a hopeless feeling of being unavailable to create tangible change for these people. Thankfully, there are ways to get meaningfully involved to help stabilize refugees’ situations and environments.

One can contribute to the Immigrant Solidarity Network, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHRC). One can also donate their time through volunteerism and activism through these organizations, as well as going onto the UN Volunteers website and seeing what agency can most utilize your skill sets. Societal change, especially for international situations, requires a global effort and social workers can be leaders in implementing that change.

Photo Courtesy of the Guardian

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