The world is kind of a mess these days, and American Millennials are feeling a bit hopeless.
War is still raging in Iraq and Syria, mostly because of other countries’ desires to have power in those areas, and the US is still meddling in international affairs that Millennials believe they have absolutely no business being involved in.
The global temperature is rising. Icebergs are melting, coral reefs are dying, and experts are constantly warning of impending global food shortages due to crop-killing weather patterns, and Millennials believe that careless humans and profit-driven businesses have caused this sharp destruction.
And now, in 2020, there is a global pandemic that has shut down the economies of entire countries- something that Millennials have already lived through once. An invisible menace has taken away their social and physical connections with the world, stealing away their last threads of hope.
There are a lot of problems in the world these days that Millennials feel unable to cope with, causing a sharp rise in cases of depression and a general feeling of despair.
Feeling Out of Control is Making Millennials Depressed
Probably the most difficult issue to stomach is that these problems aren’t going away any time soon, and Millennials believe that the existing institutions- government, businesses, and the like- should do more to make the changes required to save the fate of humankind. They believe that it will take massive effort to change the world, and are relying heavily on organizations such as businesses, government, and non-profits to do so.
Often, depression and anxiety and other mental illnesses are exacerbated by our minds attempting to create solutions that are unreasonably large for us as individuals to act on. Millennials are constantly connected to the world and bombarded by updates on the state of the world. So it makes sense that Millennials are so depressed because our brains are constantly trying to process and create solutions to things that feel almost completely out of our control.
These solutions require money, time, and energy- all things that Millennials are a bit short on these days, but believe that large businesses and organizations have more than enough to spare.
The Case Foundation has found that Millennials tend to make what can be called micro-decisions on a daily basis to help support the changes they want to see in the world. For example, Millennials will use a ride-sharing app or purchase sustainably produced clothing to reduce their impact on the environment. The desire to effect change on an individual level is clearly there for this generation. But it is currently focused on changing the external environment, which is subject to an infinite number of factors, including other minds, which are also trying to change that same environment.
And as the old saying goes, too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the broth. Forcing change on the external environment can do, as it has done, nothing to improve the state of the world and the fate of our species besides cause more violence and strife.
We Can Change The World by Focusing on What We Can Control
When we focus on what we can control, we are able to change our inner worlds, and open up to all of the potentials available to us to create massive change in our external worlds without spending as much of our time, energy, and personal resources. Changing your inner world means transforming how you cope with external stressors, how you perceive external events, and how capable you feel of making significant positive change to your environment
There is a highly effective way to make significant change in and for the world, and it starts with us as individuals.
To begin changing the world as individuals, we must begin changing ourselves and transforming our inner worlds. The most effective and surprisingly simple way to do this is through meditation.
Meditation is A Tool to Change The World
Meditation is a buzzy topic these days, and you may be wondering how sitting, breathing, and thinking about nothing is going to stop the icebergs from melting. So here is a really important explanation that you need to know: meditation is a tool. It is a tool that we as individuals can use to examine our inner worlds, our selves, our truths, and our beliefs. Meditation is a tool to help us explore the present moment, so that we can stop living in the stressful past and future states of mind, and come back to what we can control in this exact moment.
The answer to changing the world, and to Millennials feeling like they are capable of changing the world as individuals, is to start meditating. And then do it every day. Meditation brings us into the present moment- a place that allows our bodies and minds to stop thinking about the issues of the world and relax into the peace and calm of right now. The present moment does not need to solve anything. The present moment can just be, which means that there is no need to be depressed, anxious, or stressed.
What Happens to You When You Meditate
There are physiological changes that happen in your body when you are stressed. The most important thing for you to know is that the body goes into “fight or flight” mode, and hormones are released to allow some less important systems and functions (like needing to use the bathroom) to be put on hold, so that the functions that allow you to fight, or flee, are more readily accessible to your brain. Then, when the stressor goes away, your body returns to normal again, and balances the hormones so that the rest of your systems can go back to operating as usual. This is called homeostasis- the body is balanced and functioning optimally.
However, when you are constantly stressed, and there is no relief, and the fight or flight systems are constantly turned on, sending a constant stream of stress chemicals into your body. This survival system can be caused by any number of real or perceived threats- and in a Millennial’s reality, there are many of both. When this system is always on, your body and your brain begin to stop balancing and functioning. The constant fear of real and perceived threats- close or far in space and time- is what is causing Millennials to sink into these pits of despair.
By turning inward and using meditation as a tool, the Millennial generation can begin to focus on what we can control, and that is one very simple thing: our individual actions. By turning away from the real and perceived threats in the world, and becoming aware of our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings in the present moment, we return our bodies to homeostasis. Then, we can move forward from the present moment to future present moments and act in those as more conscious, stable, balanced decision makers.
Meditation Creates Empathy and Drives Change
The effects of living more presently are profound. Once you have begun to practice meditation for a short (and consistent) time you will not only notice that your awareness of your own inner world is heightened, but you will begin to notice an awareness of the possible inner dialogues- the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings- of the people around you. This is called empathy- the ability to step into another person’s shoes.
Empathy requires that we understand ourselves. By understanding ourselves, we understand better what is considered the human condition- that we all suffer, we all love, we all want, we fear, we all experience life through an individual but similarly shaped lens. Through understanding the human condition, Millennials can feel empowered to make more and more micro-decisions that impact profound change on the external environments in which they live, and on the planet and structure of societies as a whole.
Take notice if you’re having a feeling of guilt, or even outrage, at the suggestion of turning inward. Some may assume that there is an implication of becoming complacent by focusing only on what you can do. However, this is not correct at all. Turning inward and focusing on your own actions and the impact that you as an individual have on the trajectory of the human species is not only extremely effective in creating waves of change, but it is extremely empowering.
Take social media arguments for example. Imagine you are arguing your point with someone who has a completely opposite view from you on the page of a company which sells a product that has been proven to be incredibly harmful to human health. You decide to take the advice to meditate, to look at your thoughts about the person you have been arguing, your beliefs about that person, and your ability to make positive change on this particular subject.
As you turn inward, you will discover that there is no need to argue with another person to prove your point or attempt to change the external environment over which you have no control. Instead, you will realize that a much more effective way of creating change is by using your individual actions to make that specific change. Instead of purchasing that company’s product, you may decide to purchase a different product which is safer for people and the planet. This doesn’t make you- the person who has chosen to stop arguing and turn inward- complacent. It makes you incredibly powerful.
Empowered people make empowered decisions. Empowered decisions are the ones that consider the thoughts, feelings, and inner worlds of others- and also the health and safety of others. Empowered decisions are made when an individual is able to look at their own thoughts and beliefs and empathize with others around them. This can be accomplished through regular practice of meditation.
Millennials practicing meditation will save the world. Our collective turning inward will create a massive organization, comprised of individuals who are connected to each other through empathy. This massive organization will be the one with the collective resources- time, energy, and money- to save the world.