Since the beginning of the pandemic (and maybe because of it), many of us are taking a step back to consider the importance of wellness – both in the sense of wellness as a physical or mental activity like meditation, yoga, or hiking, but also as a consideration of what being “well” means for each of us. The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on this, and this week’s author, HBG’s Lucy Poludniak, brings her reflections and some solutions to the consideration of bringing well-ness into a new year. ~Helen
The holiday season is ending and all the sentimental music, decorations, family recipes, unbridled joy and infrequent fellowship will be tucked safely away as normalcy resumes. I am exceedingly thankful to have survived this holiday season because it is always a struggle for me to remain positive. “Bah humbug!” is always beneath my surface holiday smile partially because the expectations of good cheer are so unreasonably high and partially because my life is nothing like those depicted in the Hallmark Christmas movies or myriad home-for-the-holidays commercials.
Please don’t misunderstand. I am generally an optimistic person and can put a positive spin on nearly any situation, but the end-of-year requests from multiple nonprofit organizations always tempers the holidays with the feeling that the world is in such a mess. How can I stay positive when faced with so many Dickensian appeals, especially when I am privy to inside information on the unimaginable wealth some people hold in relation to their philanthropy. I love the work I do and see it as my contribution to making the world a better place, yet sometimes I find it disheartening to realize that high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) never seem to make a meaningful dent in their net worth despite gifting millions.
Why is that? Through research I have found that HNWIs use various tried and true and new techniques to safeguard wealth. I’m sure these are familiar to you: limited liability companies (LLCs), trusts, stocks, dividends, donor advised funds (DAFs), real estate investments, private equity, and foundations. A new one I discovered this year is philanthrocapitalism. If you haven’t heard about it, let me direct you to a 2019 article in the Berkeley Economic Review: “The Merits and Drawbacks of Philanthrocapitalism.” From what I understand, it is a hybrid of business and philanthropy that offers a return on investment. I do not understand the concept of expecting something in return for gifting, but that is because I have never been wealthy enough to make financial investments. I cannot fathom the mindset of HNWIs and that probably contributes to my struggle to remain positive while doing research, especially during the holidays.
But I try to keep everything in perspective. An understanding of how the wealthy become and remain wealthy helps me balance my holiday mood swings. Informative articles such as ProPublica’s 2021 article, “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax,” help but still leave me wondering if there isn’t more that can be done by philanthropists to provide the woeful basics of life to the majority of the world’s population, you know: food, water, clothing, shelter. Health care would also be nice since philanthropy has progressed since Dickens’ day.
Are my thoughts on the imbalance between the haves and have-nots becoming too much for you? Do you sometimes get disheartened when doing research? Here are some simple methods I have found useful in remaining optimistic, staying positive, and keeping up my spirits:
- Cuddle a pet. I have two rescue dogs who are happy to oblige my need for hugs. Unconditional love, anyone?
- Look, up in the sky. Sometimes, just marveling at how blue the sky is can free my mind of its heaviness. Watching sunrises and sunsets are especially rewarding.
- Take a walk. I’m no longer a 10,000-step-a-day fiend but my 20 minutes—even in the rain—improves my day. Walking is good for your overall health and being outside is even better.
- Get outside. Sometimes I forget to take a break from the computer screen and must remind myself to at least walk to the mailbox. By the way, that’s how I found my second rescue dog. She was loose in the neighborhood and wandered over to me. So, please step away from the screen, go outside and rediscover nature for the sake of your senses: hear the birds, see the fog, feel the breeze, smell the flowers, taste the rain.
- Daydream. I am especially good at letting my mind wander since I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. I was the one in kinder class looking out the window when the teacher called my name.
- Imagine what you would do if you won the Lotto. Frankly, I believe that researching HNWIs is also preparation for my imagined winnings (a silver lining) and here’s a link to a helpful article for more advice.
- Ponder an inspiring quote or idiomatic expression. I favor Anne Frank’s: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
When your research, or any other situation or season, turns your mood awry, please know that you are not alone. Acknowledge that working in philanthropy, while rewarding, can also be stressful and disheartening. If you need help and find that sharing your feelings with a friend or family member aren’t helping you feel better, you can talk to someone 24/7 at Lifeline, 800-273-8255, or dial 988. You can also try the NAMI HelpLine, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. (ET) at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or text “HelpLine” to 62640.