Four Simple Ways You Can Use Psychology to Change the World in 2018

Many people understandably have a complicated relationship with New Year's resolutions. Essentially they are little promises we make to ourselves with often unrealistic expectations of the end outcome. Any failure to achieve these annual goals undoubtably results in disappointment with ourselves and feelings of inadequacy until we start it all over again next year. Fun! (Nope).

I propose we take the pressure off of ourselves and focus our attention outwards, into the greater world. 2017 was a tough one, so maybe, just maybe, if we all work hard at polishing our tiny corners of the world we can make it sparkle in 2018.

Here are some simple ways you can use your skills as a budding, or current, psychologist to change the world this year. 

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1. Be a compassionate social media user  

In this age of "fake news" and vitriolic trolls, we could all be a bit better at controlling ourselves on social media. The reality is that platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made the world smaller, which should be a wonderful thing. But it also means that we're exposed as much to the beauty of this world as we are the ugliness. 

If you're ever in a situation where someone has been cruel to you on the internet, take a leaf out of Sarah Silverman's book and respond with kindness. It's easier to react in anger, sure, but what will that accomplish? Use your capacity for empathy to reach out to someone - you never know what wonderful things may come of it. 

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2. Volunteer

Volunteering is one of the most selfless things you can do, but also one of the most rewarding. As a psychology student, or mental health professional, you have a wealth of skills to donate, but what you might find is that you gain even more in the process.

SLV.Global mental health placements all involve working with a variety of service users in diverse settings to promote positive mental health and reduce stigma. Working with service users, who you do not share a language with, in a country where there is a care deficit for those with specific needs and mental health concerns helps to hone and polish your capacity for empathy, patience, and your interpersonal and communication skills.

Improve your CV while improving the lives of others! Win/win!

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3. Be randomly kind 

It's a "no-brainer" that doing good things makes us feel good. But what you may not know is that it has a profoundly positive effect on our physiology. A single act of kindness "boosts serotonin, a natural antidepressant in your brain, in the giver, the receiver, and those who witness it." BOOM! 

In a University of British Columbia study, reported on by the Huffington Post, people with high levels of anxiety were asked to do at least six nice acts for other people per week. "The acts of kindness included things like holding the door open for someone, doing chores for other people, donating to charity, and buying lunch for a friend. The researchers found that doing nice things for people led to a significant increase in people’s positive moods. It also led to an increase in relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals."

It doesn't take a lot to improve the day of someone else, and yours in return. The better we treat each other, the nicer world we all get to live in. Be kind to a stranger and pass those warm, fuzzy feelings around! 

 

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4. Meditate

Meditation is an excellent tool to help personally combat anxiety and depression, but it also has other, wider reaching benefits. A study, conducted in the United States from January 2007 - 2010, showed that a large group of individuals meditating together actually reduced violent crime nationally. I know. Wat? 

According to the study, "researchers found there was an 18.5% drop in violent crime nationwide at the end of the study. Statistical and independent analyses showed the rising trend of U.S. homicides during 2001-2006 was reversed during the 2007-2010 study period. Other variables were ruled out such as the economy, demographics, and law enforcement."

OhmMG. Meditation for the nation! Not only does meditation have excellent benefits for your health, but the universe needs those good vibes too, so let's get to it, we've got a world to change!