Now you can see how modern life can actually cause us more depression and anxiety. So, what do we do about it? It’s simple: we change our attitude and our perspective. I realized this after learning about my family’s history.
(Read Why Are People Depressed? Part I: How Modern Life Causes More Anxiety if you haven’t already.)
I recently went on vacation to Washington to see some family. While at my mom’s condominium, she showed me some old pictures of family members that were kept by my grandpa. One of the pictures was of my great, great grandmother who came over from Sweden in 1887. Along with the pictures, there was a written record that told her story of how she came to the United States.
My great, great grandmother, Anna, decided to move to America with her sister, Mary, in 1887. They were both young women who wanted a better life for themselves. They lived in southern Sweden where the climate is rocky and their options were limited. They could either marry a poor farmer or go travel to America and meet up with their other sisters. They decided to take a calculated risk and go to America. They traveled by a steamboat that took 6 weeks to cross the Atlantic. All they had with them were clothes and a large basket where they kept their food for the journey. Anna knew how to sew well, so she would repair clothes or sew on buttons for other passengers in exchange for a couple cents. They landed in Quebec, thankful to have survived the journey without any major problems, and then found a railroad that led to Seattle where the rest of the family was. Keep in mind that they didn’t speak any English or French. Once they arrived in Seattle, Anna had to work for a wealthy English family, the family who paid for her trip to America, for 5 years as an indentured servant. Anna eventually met my great, great grandfather and had several children. She was happy to be in America and blessed to work as a housekeeper for the wealthy English family.
I also learned about my great grandfather, Albert, who came from Germany in 1900, from my grandpa. He grew up in a small town called Oberstein. Albert was an adventurous guy, he joined the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which later became the Coast Guard. He was happy to work on one of their boats as a handyman/engineer. He ended up settling in San Francisco for a while, and even worked in Alaska at a fish cannery. You can tell Albert loved the water, and he eventually settled in western Washington.
I was thrilled to learn about my ancestors, who were long gone before I was born. It filled me with a lot of excitement and joy knowing how they took big risks and lived adventurous lives. The best part, however, was the lessons it taught me: attitude and perspective. If you get both of these right, your whole world can change.
Thinking about these two ancestors are their lives really made me question my own. It made me realize that my attitude was bad. I don’t mean just socially like I was in a bad mood, but my whole attitude towards the events that happen to me and the environment around me. I thought to myself: if they were content with so little, why am I not more content with all that I have? My attitude needed to be adjusted. I need to start appreciating everything I have in my life.
After realizing my attitude was bad and laughing at how small my problems were in comparison, I also realized that my perspective was way off. These two concepts really go together. I have a good life, better than most, but I take it for granted. This is something I’ve thought about a lot over my life and is something I’m sure you all can relate to. I have a way easier, less troublesome life than either of these two, but from what I learned they just dealt with their problems head-on and were grateful for the few things they had: health, family, and religion.
I’m sure you are in a similar situation as me. Maybe you have it easier, maybe you have it harder. But most of us really do have it good. That is the key thing to remember. We live in a world of endless opportunities, opportunities that my ancestors and your ancestors never had. If you can remind yourself of that daily, you will be on the road to improving your mindset. Your attitude and perspective.
In Part I, I talked about how modern life causes depression. By learning the stories of family members, who share the same DNA as me, it really hit home at how great I really have it. If you’re reading this then you have access to internet. You probably have a smart phone and a Netflix account. You probably feel moderately safe and aren’t worried about contracting a disease and dying. Past generations lived a simple but hard life, but they didn’t have much to complain about.
Modern technology like social media has corrupted our minds and convinced us that we don’t have it great. We get lonely even though the world is more connected than it has ever been. We get stressed about money, our job, and petty fights with friends and family. People get outraged by politics that have little to no effect on their lives. Anna and Albert were happy just to have a family and enough food. They probably loved every adventure and good thing they had in their lives. They weren’t worried about their 401k and how much money was in their bank accounts. They didn’t feel like failures because they weren’t going on extravagant vacations and living in a mansion.
Money doesn’t come easily to 99% of us and there is no secret formula to making money. I believe happiness is the same way. But by taking small steps, like changing your attitude and perspective, we can become happier and live more fulfilling lives. That’s why you should really go all out on your dreams too. As long as you have a roof over your head and have enough money to pay your bills, what do you really have to lose? Make sure you appreciate what you have, work hard, and have fun. Everything else will take care of itself.