How Can I Avoid Being Dragged Down by a Depressing World?

Every day the world disappoints me a little more. The news is full of tragedy and disappointment, from atrocities in foreign lands to stories of domestic abuse close to home. Murder, racism, hunger, homelessness—there's no end to it. As a citizen I feel like it's my duty to stay informed and to know what's going on around me; I don't think the answer is to just stick my head in the sand and pretend the world isn't full of injustice, greed, and hate. But at the same time, knowing this is a weight on my soul. I don't know how to reconcile my thirst for knowledge with the depression and exasperation that comes from quenching this thirst. I know there are good people in the world doing good things, but those are not the things I see every day, those are not the things that dominate the news cycle. It's all just so ... heavy and dark and ugly. And I feel like I get dragged down just a little bit further each day. What am I supposed to do about this? What can I do? There's only so far a person can be dragged down. —Dejected
Dear Dejected,

Let me start off by saying, I hear you! I actually recently noticed that watching too much news was getting me down a bit, too. I cut back and shifted my focus to other, more uplifting things and I feel some relief. That may or may not work for you. It seems like you are haunted by this on a deeper level and feel a strong sense of duty to be well informed about the world around you.

I wonder if at least part of the answer for you could be getting more involved. You mentioned knowing that there are good people doing good things in the world, but you indicate that you aren’t really exposed to them. Is there an organization near you that you could get involved with that works on a cause that you feel strongly about? There are many different options. You could volunteer in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, work behind the scenes in fundraising or public relations, or get involved in activism on a grassroots or legislative level. Contributing to the betterment of the world and surrounding yourself with people who are also committed to that cause might help you to find some much-needed hope and inspiration.

I also find myself feeling curious about what else is going on in your life. Are there other things, on a more personal level, that are getting you down? Sometimes when we are unhappy with our own lives, it can be even harder to endure the tragedy and injustices of the world.

At some point, sadly, all of us need to come to terms with the fact there is much suffering and cruelty in the world and we’re largely powerless to change the balance. There is so much love and joy, yet simultaneously so much pain and misery. In the same way many of us are compelled to face our own mortality, we also have an opportunity to find some meaning in the face of all the suffering. Along the lines of Viktor Frankl‘s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning,” you might benefit to see that there is silver lining of sorts to all this suffering. If it were not for suffering, we would not grow and become more evolved beings; likewise, joy could not exist without its counterpart, pain.

You are clearly a sensitive being, like many of us who don’t have defense mechanisms strong enough to keep us happily oblivious and in denial. Therefore, it’s even more important for you to do your deeper work to identify and truly care for the “weight on your soul.” Doing this will help you find some meaning in it all, keep you persevering, and give you some sense of hope.

Partnering with a therapist to explore your thoughts and feelings about the world, and your place in it, could be helpful in sorting some of this out. Engaging in therapy might help you to create some positive changes in yourself and the world around you, and I suspect that would make you feel much less dejected—maybe even happy (or happier).

Kind regards,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Bianaca

    March 7th, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    you could try focusing more on the things that are good in life instead of so much on the bad

    the world can be nasty place but ultimately we are the ones and our actions and beliefs are what will allow it to be that way for us

  • Gracie

    March 7th, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    I agree that cutting back on all of the news programs had a profound impact on me and my family. There is only so much of the heartache and terror that you can take on a daily basis and when I saw how it was effecting me as well as our kids, I said no more, and I only watch occasionally, not on a regular basis anymore.

  • Matt

    March 7th, 2015 at 5:24 PM

    What helps me is getting an abbreviated form of the news. As a highly sensitive person, I get incredibly overwhelmed very easily.
    The personal is indeed political and it always helps to lead by example. Take things day by day, strive to be a good person, and try to cultivate your own sense of well being. Send positive vibes out. God knows we all need them!

  • Alton

    March 9th, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    It sounds very selfish but there are simply those days when I feel like I have to put my blinders on and not worry about the things that are not impacting me right then and there.

  • ella

    March 10th, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    I don’t think that it is selfish Alton, but I do think that there are those of us who do have a bit of a harder time tuning out the bad stuff.

    I am always looking just ahead and wondering if something like this could happen to someone who does so much good, then what is waiting for me?

    I know that these can be unreasonable and depressing thoughts, but you know, when things have been so good you start wondering when the other shoe will drop.

  • anne

    March 11th, 2015 at 9:19 AM

    think you could be depressed?

  • Johnathan M

    October 5th, 2017 at 3:07 PM

    I can relate to this. Recently I have been dragged down, not only by the world around me but all forms of media. From the news to social media sites online there is nothing but negativity. I have become more drawn towards politics now that I have never cared about before. As a person of average intelligence and education I find myself being drawn into conflict with similar people and ultimately we both achieve nothing having helped no one. I sometimes wonder if we aren’t evolving quick enough to cope with the apparent overpopulation that we are encountering as a species, and as a result missing out on what was `living`.

  • Jonathan N.

    September 3rd, 2020 at 6:28 PM

    2019: “The world is so depressing right now…”
    COVID-19: “Hold my beer”

  • Yi

    February 24th, 2022 at 10:32 PM

    With the pandemic going on in this world and all the uncertainties in this life, it is so normal to feel lost and depressed. Please do not get overwhelmed by these feelings. Try to take care of yourself. Look hard for interacting with people that matter to you in your life. Look into your heart and ask yourself what things you’d regret if you do not try or pursue before you die. Then little by little, you will find your real passion and calling. Career can change, friends can change, but love and care will always be the most important and unchanging things in this life. Good luck to all of us.

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