Many people become vegan in the hope that they might make a difference, and yet, it’s common to feel hopeless in the face of all the many forms of cruelty that can be seen in the world. Assuming that we don’t turn a blind eye, this kind of knowledge can be very depressing.
It’s true that there are violent acts committed towards people and animals every day. You can choose to focus on the long history of cruelty shown to others and the possibility that it will continue forever into the future … Or, instead, you can shift your focus to something more empowering. For example, you might reflect on the positive difference you are already making, and ask questions such as, “What else can I do to bring about change?”
There’s evidence to suggest that people who feel hopeless or depressed have different thought patterns compared to people who describe themselves as hopeful and happy most of the time – and these thought patterns can be changed. Those who consider themselves depressed tend to think a lot about what’s wrong with the world, and what’s missing from their lives. On the other hand, people who generally enjoy a happier mood more often focus on what’s going right as well as what they are grateful for.
So, does this mean that we should always look on the bright side and ignore what’s wrong with the world? Not quite – denial is unlikely to help anyone! But if you’re struggling with a sense of hopelessness or depression and this is affecting your ability to make a positive impact, then it’s worthwhile taking a look at your own thoughts. With some effort, our habitual way of thinking can be changed so that we can stay as emotionally strong and healthy as possible, even while keeping our eyes open to what’s actually occurring around us.
There may have been countless times you've heard, “I could never give up meat. It's too tasty!” or “Why do you bother? It’s not like you’re going to change the world”. You can focus on those occasions, or remind yourself instead that you are one of many people who are taking action to create a more compassionate world, and the number of people choosing to go vegetarian and vegan is growing every day.
It’s totally understandable that you would feel hopeless about how much unnecessary suffering there is all over the planet at the moment. However, while you can’t control everything around you, you are at least able to control your inner world and mental state to some extent. You can do this by consciously shifting the focus of your thoughts. Try as much as possible to pay attention to what is within your power to say or do, rather than concentrating on all the things you are powerless over.
Every time you catch yourself feeling hopeless, ask yourself what you were just thinking about. If your mental energy was focused on what’s going wrong, what’s missing, or what you can’t control, try switching to another thought about what’s right, what you’re grateful for, and what you do have control over. If you continue to do this, you are likely to become a lot less hopeless over time and to feel in a better position to help in whatever way you can.
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