4 Things You Can Control in an Out-of-Control World

The world feels pretty out of control these days. A deadly global pandemic is made worse by hateful rhetoric on opposite sides of issues related to it. Meanwhile, climate change is spurring an increasing number of events that are destroying homes and lives.

It seems that a world made smaller by technology would unite rather than divide. However, fissures among people and countries have turned into crevasses. It’s difficult to keep from falling into them.

Trying to control what you can’t is an exercise in futility. But controlling what you can just might keep you from tumbling over the edge. Here are four things that are within your control, even when it feels like the world is not.

1. Your Wellness

Your physical and mental health and well-being are things you should never take for granted. You can’t avoid certain diseases or accidental injuries. You can, however, control what you do to stay well.

Develop an exercise routine and stick with it. Whatever you enjoy — running, walking, doing yoga, playing pickleball — do it regularly, and reap the benefits. Exercise is a phenomenal stress reliever, as beneficial to your mental health as your physical health.

Watch your diet as well, making healthy choices and keeping consumption of so-called comfort foods to a minimum. More water and less alcohol and soda will lift your spirits and drop some pounds. Your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar will thank you for it.

Don’t neglect your medications in your wellness plan. For example, birth control pills don’t just help you avoid pregnancy. They may also regulate your menstrual cycle, control your flow, lower your risk of certain cancers, and clear up your acne.

What you do to improve your physical and mental wellness is up to you. No one else can do the work for you, so resolve to make choices you’ll stick with. Wellness is good for mind, body, and soul.

2. Your Gratitude and Perceptions

Gratitude is circular. More than merely giving thanks for life’s blessings, gratitude is about expressing appreciation and returning kindness to others. It can put joy into the mundane and routine aspects of life.

Studies have shown that grateful people have more positive outlooks and are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Gratitude pulls your focus from the material and places it squarely on relationships with people around you. That’s sure to create good karma.

How you choose to see the world is up to you. If your lens is focused only on the negative, your life will be filled with negativity. Choose instead to see the good in people and situations, and your outlook will be far more positive.

Take out that old Golden Rule, give it a little spit and polish, and let it shine. Treating others as you want them to treat you is sorely needed in such a divided world. You can give respect to whomever you choose, so use this superpower liberally.

No matter what’s happening in the world, you can control whom and what you’re grateful for. It’s certainly a world that will benefit from a little thanks, respect, and understanding. Choose to see the good, be thankful for it, and put your troubles out of sight.

3. Your Judgments

It is human nature to be judgmental. We form immediate opinions about what we see and hear, somewhat out of necessity. If you took the time to gather all the necessary information before rendering judgment, you would never move.

There’s a physiological basis for judgments, based on using the “reflexive” as opposed to the “logical” brain. The former jumps to conclusions about, for example, someone of a different race. When, on the other hand, you give non-racist responses to a questionnaire, you’re using your logical brain.

Although you can justify the propensity to judge, you can also choose not to. There are no rules that say you must have an opinion about everything. In fact, it’s a far better practice to take a step back every time you feel a judgment coming on.

Let’s say you see a guy covered in face tattoos and pierced everywhere imaginable. Instead of deciding he’s a misfit, think: “Wow. He must have quite a high pain threshold!” That simple reboot would make you look on in awe instead of frowning with disdain.

Controlling the natural urge to judge is well within your ability. You simply have to start appreciating the differences in people rather than indulging personal biases. After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if we were all the same.

4. Your Actions and Reactions

You may recall Isaac Newton’s third law of motion from a long-ago science class: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Control the first part of that equation, and you control the other.

You can’t control everything the world throws at you, but you can control your reaction to it. You can also control your own actions, doing things that you feel are right even when others won’t.

Take a couple of pandemic examples. You know that wearing a face covering hinders the spread of COVID-19. You can choose to mask up before going into the grocery store even if it’s not required. Or say you’re not comfortable in a small room filled with people who aren’t wearing masks. Rather than being filled with anxiety, you can choose not to enter the room.

Controlling your own actions and reactions demands that you let others’ judgments (see No. 3, above) roll off your back. You’ll be amazed at how relaxed you’ll feel when you take control of what you can — and let go of what you can’t.

Not even an out-of-control world can stop you from controlling certain things in your life. You must make the effort, but if you do, you can let those other chips fall where they may.

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