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Things in the world arent as bad as you think
In this edition of LIFEadvice Coach Kim gives some proof that the world isn't going down the drain, and explains how you can have less stress and fear. - photo by Kim Giles

There are so many serious problems in our community and the world. Watching the news about puts me over the edge. The world is falling apart and I feel constant stress about it. It feels like the whole world is going down the drain. Why do all these bad things have to happen? How can I process all this and not let it affect me?


There are problems in the world, but you need to turn off the news and look at the larger picture. Statistics show the world is getting better, less violent, more healthy and more humane all the time. There are still more good people than bad and those good people are making a significant difference.

Dont believe me?

  • Life expectancy has gone up from 47 in 1950 to 70 in 2011 (a 50 percent jump).
  • Poverty rates are declining, even in low-income countries.
  • Murders are down around the world. It is reported that 557,000 people were murdered in 2001; but in 2008, that number was 289,000. The homicide rate has been declining in 75 percent of nations since then.
  • Racism and hate are still here, but we live in the least discriminatory era in history.
  • Bee stings, deer collisions, ignition of nightwear and other mundane accidents still kill more Americans than terrorist attacks, according to political scientist John Mueller.
  • Rape or sexual assault and violence against intimate partners has been declining for decades. Far too many of these crimes still take place, but we should be encouraged by the fact that a heightened concern about violence against women has brought about measurable progress, according to Steven Pinker author of "The Better Angels of Our Nature."
  • School shootings, abductions, bullying, cyberbullying, sexting, date rape and sexual and physical abuse against children are down. Kids are safer today than ever before.
  • Democracy is on the rise, and statistics show a freer world is a safer world. About 60 percent of all countries in the world are now democracies.
  • In China and India incomes have tripled in just the last 10 years.
  • More humans live in peace and die of old age than ever before.
There are still many serious problems on this planet, so we cannot let ourselves become complacent, but things are getting better not worse. We have work to do to end human trafficking, terrorism, hunger, disease, discrimination and oppression, but we can also set down some of our fear and take a deep breath.

I also want you to understand what really causes stress and fear. It is not the facts, the situations or the state of the world. It is not your bank account balance, your bills or your marriage problems. Stress and fear are not caused by external factors at all.

Stress and fear are caused by how you are thinking about all those factors and situations. They are internally created.

This is good news, because if you created them, you also have the power to change them. Here are a couple ways to start changing your thinking.

1. Understand your negativity bias. This refers to the fact that things of a negative nature (unpleasant thoughts, emotions, harmful or traumatic events) have a greater effect on your psychological state than do positive things. You basically enlarge the negative in your mind and discount the positive. We all do it.

Michel de Montaigne said this 500 years ago, My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.

Most of what you fear isnt real or isnt as big as you think it is. Most of your suffering is unnecessary and self-inflicted.

A powerful way to counter this is gratitude. Count your blessings and whats right in your life (every day). This will remind you that the good always outweighs whats wrong. Statistics even prove it. Studies have shown 85 percent of what you worry about wont happen, and the 15 percent that does happen, you will handle better than expected and will teach you amazing lessons.

You might need to remind yourself of these facts daily.

2. Use the haunted house analogy to get accurate. In a haunted house, things (or people) who look scary are always jumping out in front of you. These things may initially scare you, but then you remind yourself it isnt real and you calm right down. Most of the things you fear and stress about in your life right now arent going to be a problem either. You are just living in a haunted house.

3. Remember the real point and purpose for being here is to learn. Life is a classroom and every terrible experience comes with a lesson or a positive aspect. We are here to learn about both the light and the darkness. Bad experiences and horrific tragedies give each of us a chance to decide who we are going to be. When terrible things happen, there is usually an interesting increase of love in the world.

This week Ive discovered a new depth of love for people in Paris and Beirut (people I dont even know), and that love is deeper than I realized. We ache for those people, and it is a beautiful thing to feel the depth of our love for our fellow human beings. The reality of terrorism gives the opportunity to embrace the principles of peace in our religions and make a commitment to be tolerant of others.

You asked me why horrible things have to happen in this classroom.

My answer is, there is a reason, but most of the time, we arent supposed to know what it is.

We are better off not knowing. Right now you are truly, deeply bothered by these horrible events in the world, as you should be. If you understood the reason why this had to happen, if the mystery was solved and you got the answer, you might make peace with the horror of the situation. You might not be so appalled by it and that would be even worse than what you are experiencing now.

Watching evil and not being moved by the horror of it, not questioning and feeling pain, would take away what makes you human.

Aron Moss wrote a wonderful article on this topic in which he explains, Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening. When you have an explanation, the pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening."

We are not meant to tolerate suffering and evil.

So the question isnt why do bad things happen; its what do we do when horrific bad things happen?

We choose trust and love.

Choose to believe that even the things you cant understand serve us somehow. Trust there are still more good people than bad, who are using all their creative powers to change things. Trusting brings peace.

Then, let these events make you a better, kinder and more loving person. Be one of the good people and use your creative energy to do good in the world. Instead of trying to answer unanswerable questions, turn your grief into a force for good in your home and community.

Speak out against injustice and cruelty more often. Love people more passionately and take action to alleviate suffering wherever you can.

You can do this.