Trump, the Border, & Depression on the 4th of July

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As my readers know, one of my main concerns in helping us fight the stresses of living in the American city is the lack of attention paid to mental health, especially to two of its most distressing problems: anxiety and depression.

I’ve been thinking about it again this 4th of July as I continue to learn more about the misery at the border. I’ve been worrying not only about the obvious physical effects from the unhealthy conditions, but also about the PTSD that will likely affect every man, woman, and child going through this​ ​horrible experience, leaving them to face ​months or ​years of lingering anxiety and depression. As you may know, chronic stress of any kind often leads to anxiety and depression, but being traumatized for long periods almost guarantees this outcome. Tragically, prolonged anxiety and depression ​often contribute to continued and new physical illnesses, ​creating a painful​ and expensive ​cycle for victims and those caring for them. 

Many kinds of stress and ​emotional ​abuse can lead to such prolonged mental suffering, and research shows in fact that depression is increasing throughout our country. This isn’t surprising given the current environment. While those at the border suffer both physically and mentally, many others of us watch with fear and horror ​King Trump’s destructive march through what’s left of many of our country’s goals and ideals. We see the end of being a respected leader on the world stage in peace, justice, and protecting the planet, and that we are no longer anywhere near the kind and generous example we used to be, or some of us thought we were, of welcoming the weary masses who yearn to be free. Even many non-Americans have begun to feel more stress as things deteriorate further with a Tweet or a dubious Executive Order. 

No matter how ​Trump and his yes-people twist the words or the history, this ​generalized ​misery as well as that at the border was and is largely caused by ​their own self-interested actions. Before writing more about this I wanted to check my hunch that since​ the beginning of this Presidency Americans’ depression and anxiety has increased even more than what I’d already observed by just talking to people in the first few months. I ​searched online only for a few seconds, and no less than nine articles​ appeared​ on Trump’s negative effects on mental health.

I’ll get to those in a moment​.​ Meanwhile it must be said the​re could be no better recipe for wrecking mental and physical health than the​ ​hell on earth going on at the border. Aside from the physical misery, those of us who have suffered from depression know that the new and acute depression that will result for many is itself its own hell on earth. ​This past weekend as we celebrated our freedoms ​including the right to pursuit of happiness, our desperate fellow-humans, already stressed beyond what most of us can imagine experiencing, continued to suffer. Continuing for them, for who knows how long–are the brutal effects of family separation, their loneliness for home, fears for the rest of their families and friends back home and fear of an unknown future, finding themselves living in cages and other jail-like ​containers, seeing their children ill with diseases that aren’t being treated, feeling looked down on or even hated by many people they now depend on for survival, being surrounded by filth they never would have lived with at home, and being emotionally and/or sexually or otherwise abused. Throw in constant doses of helplessness and hopelessness, and ​a US president lying to the world about how great things are for them, ​and you have a perfect storm for ​creating severe mental illness that can last for years.

​I can’t imagine the founding fathers envisioned us causing such anguish i​n people begging for asylum. Few people can bear such multiple prolonged abuses without psychic damage. Depression by itself, without all the other problems, is torture enough. ​Psychiatric drugs ​​take weeks to work, often don’t help at all, and many have awful side effects. ​Physical illness only makes depression worse, and depression makes physical illness worse. Add to these challenges increasing evidence that our culture is becoming more and more stressed, ​including increases in blatant hatred and hateful behavior, and you can see it will be more and more difficult, no matter who we are or where we came from, to recover from depression in our country​, without some major changes at the border and in our way of life in general. 

​So we must help each other, our leaders must ​also ​help, a​nd if they don’t help we must elect different leaders. Some of our leaders’ failures to call out hatred and its related crimes  are reprehensible, but it’s not too late for them to begin to make amends. Among other things we need them to work with us to change this culture of prejudice and hate, and to change as well the money-and-success-over-all state of mind that seems so central to our society and that most of us feel somewhat forced into by the resulting rush-rush never-rest American lifestyle. As for the hate, it’s salt on the stressed-out lifestyle wounds, and because much of it has been taught to the haters I can only recommend they un-teach themselves if they’ve been so taught. If they stop and think for awhile about it, they hopefully will see it’s a much happier, healthier way for all of us to live. 

We also need specific help from business leaders in altering those other stressful lifestyle practices, since all the stress and worry they contribute to not only make more of us sicker but also can make prejudice and violence more likely. If your life is filled with stress and you’re angry or upset a lot, maybe it feels easy to blame the person of another color or religion who works in your building or lives on your block. So business and government need to prioritize making everyone’s life less stressful. This is not impossible, as they seem to think. The idea of helping us by changing a few things that chronically stress us just isn’t at the top of their lists. For example they can help reduce noise and pollution in our lives, help us have more nature in our cities, and help us calm down about climate change by doing something about it and not lying and denying what science has proven. They can help us have more sense of community by encouraging the presence of friendly community meeting places, parks, and coffee shops. If we’re less isolated, meeting each other more than we do now, and making friends in our own communities, we’ll all be healthier both mentally and physically. Don’t leave it at the bottom of your lists, government and business. Do something.

These stresses and more (such as bad diet and too many guns) that they can help us decrease, have for now made our countr​y​ a hard one to get well in or stay well in, especially ​​if you’re traumatized, anxiety-ridden, and already chronically stressed or​depressed. A stunningly self-involved and ignorant administration doesn’t help. When it heaps more abuse on new refugees and continues to upset the rest of us with ignoring these known stressors, it only makes ​all of our stress worse. All stress-caused illness costs a great deal to treat, as do the addiction and even crimes it sometimes leads to, which I mention since so many of our business and government leaders are always thinking about profit.

​​To give you an idea of how the country’s mood is already being affected by the current leadership,  here are a f​ew quotes:

“While Trump supporters may have experienced a boost in ​’​psychological well-being, pride, and hope for the future,” in the words of the New England Journal of Medicine researchers, his presidency has been a pit of despair for others.​’ ​”

(from Pacific Standard,,  article by Jared Keller, Jan.15, 2019)

Referring to a phenomenon called “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” author Matt Kwong ​writes that therapist Elisabeth LaMott’s patients ask questions such as “Is he gonna blow us all up?” and many others tell her they suffer from fear of how dire Trump’s decisions may be for the world. She told ​Kwong, “There is a fear of the world ending. It’s very disorienting and constantly unsettling.”

(from CBC News, CBC.CA, Matt Kwong, July 18, 2018, “In a divided U.S., therapists treating anxiety are hearing the same name over and over: Donald Trum​p,”)

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote that Trump is making us ​both crazy and ​ill​, listing the many stress-caused symptoms people are feeling including his own increasing blood pressure ​since Trump b​ecame President. ​​He references a paper by New York Analyst Matt Aibel that was to appear in the journal “Psychoanalytic Perspectives​,” ​in which the analyst wrote ​that many mental health professionals are often using terms such as​ ​”Trump Anxiety” and “Trump Affective Disorder.”

(Dana Milbank, Washington Post, Sept. 22nd, 2017, “President Trump is Actually Making us Crazy”)

​In the blog Anxious Minds, ​Dr. David J. Leonard writes effectively and movingly of the PTSD and general anxiety, fear, and anguish being caused by Trump​. The post’s title says it all: “A Culture of Depression; the Toxicity of Trump.”  I recommend it, and it’s at his blog

My Plan to Help at the Border:​​

Whatever your views are on ​our President or on our current society, you likely are among the many in this country who don’t want to see continued suffering at the border​, s​o I hope you agree with my prescription​ below,​ or something close to it:  

Trump must arrange to pay for ​the 3 to 5 years of mental health aid the border families or some members of them may likely need​,and at least two years of housing, ​two years of ​healthy groceries ​(fresh organic fruits and vegetables, so they can recover from the damage caused by the chemical-filled nutrition-less processed foods fed to them at the border), a two-year stipend for other necessities, and ​jobs, plus job training if needed, so adults can work once they’re stabilized. Jobs assigned must not be ones that cause ​new or ​worse mental ​or physical ​health issues​. All families must be reunited, all illnesses immediately treated, and all medical care paid for by the US. Endangered families and individuals must not be sent back home. US money and aid should be sent to each country from which suffering people are fleeing so that those places become healthy and safe ​to live in without terror. ​Finally, it would look really good and be even more healing if some of this money came directly out of Trump’s pocket. ​

When should this process begin? Today. The alternative, for ​those who let the suffering continue,  is to be remembered ​by a great many people as bullies, cowards, and pathetic leaders​ who did nothing​. ​There may be worse alternatives in store as well, such as going to jail, even if action is taken now, because so much damage has already been done. ​

Miserable, traumatized and frightened people can’t be very good citizens even if they try hard. We need to help them get on their feet. Jobs need to be done here, and these people ​​need jobs. The whole country needs a mental health boost which it could be given right now if the government act​ed​​​ humanely and did so immediately. ​This right and good action might ​do a little to ​begin to redeem the current leadership’s reputation and to help heal the despair of so many Americans that’s been caused by Trump. I personally would love to see this administration redeem itself in these ways and in many other ways, because besides ​feeling newly stressed most days like so many other people are, due to the behavior of this President and those who go along with him, I’m also perpetually stunned and embarrassed by their cowardice and cruelty. 

5G–New, fast, profitable, & possibly quite dangerous

Susan Cooke

Please pardon my long absence, caused by a need for lots of time  to research an upcoming post designed to help people find cleaner-running, quieter landscape tools, and therefore find city life a little less stressful. I interrupted that work to bring up something really important that I feel can’t wait. Let’s look at a new technology that may be affecting your health soon:  It’s called 5G.

Below are several links to articles I’ve found on 5G and the cell towers that apparently are going to be inflicted on all of us (lots and lots of them) without much concern for possible health effects. Personally I have enough to do battling and living with city stress both for myself and others already. It’s upsetting to me that  no matter what we do to be healthy–which is challenge enough in the modern world– we may have our efforts sabotaged by thousands of new barely-studied 5G cell towers near us, and have no control over what they might do to us. We already live and work in buildings full of people using a wide array of electromagnetic equipment about which there’s still not conclusive evidence of safety.  We have pretty much the same human body we did centuries ago but it wasn’t exposed to all this stuff 24/7.

If you’re concerned or want to know more, I hope you’ll take a look at these articles. I’ll mention a few more things before the articles come up below.

I’ve seen a variety of opinions on EMFs (electromagnetic fields), but I still find enough negatives to make me want to insist on no further electromagnetic radiation near where I live.  An accomplished software engineer I know says he doesn’t see that the new 5G technology is that necessary, especially if it puts people’s health at risk. He says instead what we need is faster connections to people’s houses, which you can do with  just wires only. (Full disclosure,  I’m married to the software engineer. His name is Victor Preston.)

We figured at our house we’re probably already swimming in electromagnetic radiation, and it’s likely you are too. We now turn wifi off at night so at least we’re not sleeping in so much of it.  (This was recommended to me by a book I read on possible causes of auto-immune illnesses.) Still, as a person with a PTSD brain and who seems to have a couple of ailments there are no explanations for (blood tests normal) like chronic fatigue) I’m not happy about having another not-well-understood threat added to the mix I’m living in. My understanding is none of us has the power to say “No” to these towers. As one article states it, they’re coming, period. That’s pretty pushy, wouldn’t you say? What I think we need to do then is block this technological “advance” until its proven safe for adults, kids, and animals.

Why not delay it until it’s known for certain not to cause harm? And if it does cause harm it clearly must be redesigned or scrapped. We’re going to be exposed to this stuff for most hours–maybe all hours–of every day. What’s the big hurry?  I suspect the usual–big money.

Unless and until  there’s proof all this activity in our environment is not already making people sick, we shouldn’t  allow ourselves to be bullied into accepting even more of it that’s even more untested.  If we don’t stop this plan to dump these towers on us, and we do get sicker, the companies profiting from them will likely just find ways to blame any resulting illnesses on something else.

Some people are already planning to uproot themselves and move just to get away from the towers (but where can they go?) This works further to destroy sense of community, which this country desperately needs more of–and it’s another way the towers will harm wellbeing. The companies–and also governments allowing the towers–should also consider what they may likely have to pay for the lawsuits that will likely show up later due to illness if they charge ahead.

The time to investigate and to protest is now, before they put all the towers up. I feel bad for the initial test cities, which you’ll see listed in one of the articles. Did those people have any say in the matter? In one of the articles you’ll see that one resident expects property values to go down a lot when the towers come since most people in her area don’t want them. I honestly don’t see how this many towers can be shoved on us all without asking our permission and with so much ignorance about future results. I saw a figure of 800,000 by 2026 for the US.  And even if a neighborhood wants them (I doubt that will happen given the risk) each house should be able to say no.

I’m all for technology making our lives better but when health is endangered and anxiety over the technology causes stress and the increased depression often caused by added prolonged stress, the change is not better.  Ignoring such concerns shows a lack of respect for people’s peace of mind, something too little attention is paid to already by government and business, and which deeply affects wellbeing and health and therefore the very length of our lives. It looks as if we’re going to need to stand up to protect our health and wellbeing since government is failing to do it,  and because profit can and often does roll over a people like a tank. As I say ad nauseam, enough money is one thing; more and more profit no matter the cost to health of people and the planet is another.

Those planning on big profits from 5G need to keep in mind the potential increased healthcare costs caused by more illness, not to mention the suffering. Is it worth the trade-off, especially if you’re making the public angry in the process?

I don’t want to be part of this experiment, or for you to be either. Too often in the past  we’ve accepted new technologies without asking enough questions and demanding proof of safety.  I believe a good chance to have a healthier, less angst-ridden life is a basic human right, and government and industry need to be reminded of this constantly.

I’ve already written two of my reps in Congress about 5G, and I hope you’ll do the same if you’re concerned. My  purpose in this blog and in my book is to find ways to increase wellbeing for all living things, and to show that profit need not always be king. Yes 5G does some helpful things, but it doesn’t seem near worth the possible price. If it’s forced on us where I live, I don’t know what I’ll do or where we can go, and am feeling more anxiety because of it–not good for the immune system! (By the way the towers don’t look that great either and would not be a garden enhancement for sure.)

Here’s a novel idea:  How about these big companies taking a kinder, wellbeing-promoting route? I urge them companies to make their money on something known to be safe. If they can’t find safer communication technology, they could turn their vast innovative powers to other businesses desperately needed to make life healthier. They could for example replace some of the many toxic chemicals the FDA allows with safer ingredients. They could work on ways to grow more healthy plant food and feed more people, or find ways to house more people. Instead they’re promoting possible increased illness and more of the chronic anxiety already rampant in our society by forcing 5G on us.

Before getting to the articles on 5G, I want to mention, for those of you who are interested, what I also just read about transformer boxes (a related issue). If you want to skip it just go to the next paragraph after the link to an article discussing these boxes.

We made a point when choosing our house not to get one near one of those transformer boxes on poles we were warned might have bad effects on health. I just read in a response by an aerospace scientist to one of the articles that the bigger wires running from those boxes may be also be a big health problem. To see an interesting discussion on transformers alone and on the effect of “hum” and vibrations related to them (all news to me),  go to this link:

Below are the articles. If 5G makes you nervous I hope you’ll alert those in power in business and government, including local government, that you’re worried and that you don’t want it around until and unless it’s proven to be 100% safe for health (which I doubt can happen for some time if ever).

Meanwhile, stay well and I’ll be back soon with quieter landscape options. Here are the article links and a couple of comments on some of them:

The first, from CBS News, includes some photos. Note that one person interviewed feels she’ll have to move to avoid living next to a tower.


This next article details some of the worries about 5G’s health effects including some studies. It’s thorough, alarming, and I think proof this is not a good idea, at least not as it’s now planned, and it should not be forced on us:

Why 5G Cell Towers Are More Dangerous

Next an important article from Environmental Health Trust:

For this one please just google “5G and the IOT: Scientific Overview of Human Health Risks”   (Sorry, I can’t make a link on some of these without pulling up a big piece of the article. If searching for this title doesn’t work, please go to the main site first, which is:  Environmental Health Trust, then search for the 5G title.)

Here’s one from ConsumerWatch (I had same problem with making a link with this one):  Please google “ConsumerWatch: 5G Cellphone Towers Signal Renewed Concerns Over Impacts on Health”

And from UK’s Daily Mail:

The above UK report (which is mostly about the US) states that some studies have already linked older wireless service generations to cancers of the reproductive system and heart, and 5G health effects have hardly been studied yet. But still the plan is, without asking us, to inundate us with some 800,000 new cell towers to support 5G. (The report says now we have 154,000.)


These articles and reports make clear that it’s highly irresponsible, unethical, and, might I say, greedy, to bulldoze over the entire US population with hundreds of thousands of new cell towers we certainly can’t trust to be safe.

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

Susan Cooke


Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to finish my book on stress in American cities, a book that I hope will help all of us, especially if our legislators and business leaders pay attention. I address many stresses in the book, some of which I cover in this blog, and one point I return to often is the way chronic stress affects us both mentally and physically, hammering away at our brains, our moods, for many of us causing migraines and lack of sleep, and ultimately when it gets bad enough making us physically ill by increasing blood pressure and in other ways contributing to heart disease and other ills. You probably already know that stress has been shown many times by research to affect our quality of life and even how long we live. 

What I did not so far include in my discussions of all the stresses, because it wasn’t around when I began the book, was the gut-wrenching, happiness-destroying, anxiety-inducing, chaos-pushing, rudeness and crudeness-modeling, insulting-to-allies and embarrassing-to-Americans behavior of the current wrecking-ball residing in the White House. He is, if you ask anyone I know, the cause of a slew of destructive mental and physical symptoms from chronic worry, anxiety, and even panic, to insomnia to real hopelessness, all of which can turn into depression—a huge problem already in our country and worldwide. (Since legislators are often so concerned with finance, they should know that depression costs our country well over $210 billion a year.)

We suffer everyday shock and awe at Trump’s dictator-like behavior and narcissism, his bullying cruelties, his unprecedented delivery of coy, confusing messages, his turning around of many upsetting things he says, one of the worst of which was his recent glee over the idea of sending Americans to Putin to be questioned (which in the case of one of them was likely to mean certain death), and he didn’t turn that around until those Americans and their families had sweated through several long and fearful days and nights. We also suffer from his and his administration’s increasing secretiveness as with that recent Putin summit, secretiveness that leaves everyone churning in the wind with worry about what might happen next. Therapists sometimes use a term for how he treats the American people: he’s “crazy-making,” and he seems to enjoy the resulting chaos as much as Putin is purported to enjoy the chaos Russia adds to the mix as it tries to turn us against one another..

While we stew in confusion, we also watch helplessly as he destroys the environment, relations with allies, and the lives of desperate immigrants. He’s removed for many of us what little feeling of security we once might have had in a world that includes monsters like Putin. In short, Trump is stressing much of America, and likely shortening our lives right now, all by himself. He’s surely having much the same effect on millions worldwide. We do the world a great disservice by letting him continue, and the only moral and right thing to do seems to be to get him out of office as soon as possible, meanwhile limiting, curbing, and protesting loudly and constantly every step he takes that leads to more destruction. Occasionally he does something good, but these moments are so rare they can’t counterbalance the enormous amount of stress he causes.As I watch Congress react, I find most of them much too placid and not livid enough. I want them to get really angry (but not with weapons!) and stop all this destruction of so many facets of our country and our freedom we hold dear.

What he’s done to the environment alone is keeping many people up at night as we watch the horrors of climate change and species extinction multiply right in front of us. What we needed in these difficult times was a leader of extreme intellect and ability, and what we got was a thoughtless, largely incompetent (for this job), and strangely non-empathetic person, who seems to thrive on making people feel awful. He is not in the slightest prepared for the emergencies of climate change such as the moving northward of tropical diseases and the endangering of wilderness lands and wildlife. In general problem-solving he seems mostly unable or unwilling to think ahead more than a few minutes, which to me is one of the most frightening things about him.

I’m stunned at how much he’s gotten away with so far, but to save what quality of life we might still be able to hold onto we need to take more and faster action. I beg Congress to act to repair the damage, and I beg us all to vote people into office who will do the same. Trump as we now know him simply seems too dangerous a choice as continuing leader for a country that needs to remain a beacon for the world. He doesn’t study, he doesn’t know history, and he doesn’t appear to make much use of the amazing brain power available to him. He thinks so highly of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any of those things I just listed, and that is not leading. A good leader prepares deeply and makes good things happen, or clearly tries to, and inspires and serves as a shining example to others. 

I realize many of Trump’s base may feel less stressed than before, but now that we understand better what their needs are, can we not help those people and address those issues without all this destructive fallout? Surely we have the ability and the smarts in this highly educated country to lift everyone in ways that we know they need but that don’t do this kind of harm in the process. But to do this we need a leader who is not mostly concerned with himself and his whims at the expense of the entire world. We need a leader devoted to undoing and stopping damage to the planet, to feeding, housing, caring for, and providing a better life for the poor and desperate in our country and in the world, and to helping others by building, with careful thought, study, consultation, and planning, the many systems and practices we need that are humane and good.

Another reason we need to stay stabilized (that is,Trump-less) and not fall further into fear and hopelessness is that we must work together as a country to keep Putin and other likeminded creatures away from our precious democracy and freedom. We need to remember when we see on TV or online spectacles of conflict and chaos, that Russia may be behind much of it. We’ll need to stand strong together so Putin can’t play us into more chaos so we’re too broken and weak to fight him. We need to stand together with our allies for the same reason.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on possible ways we could make some other recent terrible events turn out at least somewhat less badly:

Some of Trump’s own millions should go immediately to getting every single parent and child he’s separated back together, and as I’ve mentioned before, to pay for the years of therapy they’ll need. (No, I’m not joking, I really think he should pay.) He should also give at least a thousand-dollar stipend to each family (though it isn’t near enough) to help them start again, wherever they end up living. And most should live here rather than be sent home to die in violent countries or to live in fear until they die. We need lots of workers here right now, so he should keep every person not clearly proven dangerous here in the country (with children) and find them housing and a job, and we DO have the resources for both, especially if money is spent more wisely (not on military parades–an offense to even think about in the face of so much poverty and suffering). I wish he could be made to pay also for the therapy, lost sleep, and illness caused by stress of the millions of Americans suffering deeply every day from the fear and desperation he causes, but I know that won’t happen. 

He (and Sessions) should go to trial for cruel behavior and emotional abuse of those immigrants. I so wish Trump could also be tried for emotional abuse of all Americans caused by increasingly frightening many of them as he acts more and more like a dictator every day, and a rather unstable dictator at that. As I write this the WH has removed phrases from printed versions of the press conference at the Helsinki summit, and decided that there will be no written versions of his phone calls to other leaders. He has told us not to believe what we read or hear on the news. Hardly anyone can figure out from day to day what he really thinks or means to do about anything. Does this sound like our forefathers’ idea of a good leader for the United States of America?

Trump should also send whatever money he was going to have us spend on his military parade directly to Puerto Rico right now, and keep sending more until they are back on their feet and everyone has power, food, meds, and clean water. 

For the wellbeing of the entire world the best thing for Trump to do on top of the above-listed items is resign. A President who regularly causes so much damage to health and wellbeing should not stay or be allowed to stay in office. An enormous apology to us, to the world, and to the founding fathers seems in order too, but we know that’s not going to happen either. In order to make a sincere apology, people need to be able to find within themselves at least a modicum of humility.

Why Do Some of Those Bent on Suicide Kill Many Others?

Susan Cooke

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand why some people who aren’t the usual terrorists but who want to kill themselves feel the need to use a truck (or guns or bombs) to mow down a lot of other people first. I understand there must be a severe mental problem in most who want to kill themselves, yet most don’t take a group of innocent strangers with them. All I’ve come up with so far (not being a a psychologist) beyond mental illness such as severe depression is that in this age of media attention, which offers some fame to those who might not otherwise feel they’ve made their mark on the world, mass killing is a surefire way to get that attention, maybe even worldwide. But what the people who do this don’t realize is that the attention often lasts a few days at most, and then their names are forgotten. Meanwhile they’ve destroyed life and happiness for hundreds–the victims and all their families and friends who loved them. If there’s a God, he/she probably would appreciate the person much more for doing good for humanity than for massive destruction of life. Even if the good performed is only within a small personal sphere, the person will be loved and appreciated in life by many, and after life in reputation.

Being appreciated by just a few dozen people at most isn’t enough for some, however. Yet it can take a lot of work or money to get really famous for doing good. Since most people who do a lot of good don’t become famous, what is it they get out of it? Research says a much happier life than many others, and that theory is part of what I bank on when I urge people to incorporate more kindness into their everyday lives, even if  they aren’t Mother Teresa. Not only does kindness help everyone they come in contact with, it makes their lives much better than if they don’t practice it. I’m not talking about saving the world, just small everyday kindnesses.

But can this be enough for the fame-hungry? Many people today are so hellbent on success or the fame or money associated with it they may find the notion of accepting an un-famous life hard to swallow, even if it’s a mostly good, happy, healthy life. I’m not saying all those people would kill a lot of others for fame of course, but I do wonder how much the worship of fame–even for those not quite aware they worship it–makes these crimes more likely.

For most of us, accepting a non-famous life might be one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. It can help us get off that treadmill that drags so many down with exhaustion, anxiety, and even addiction (which all that stress may make more likely, and make harder to recover from). Carrying this lighter emotional load would make more of us healthier, happier, and better able to enjoy the life we have.

Stressed Americans not so Happy

Susan Cooke

Why aren’t we Americans higher on lists of countries in which people are the happiest and healthiest? This is in essence what much of my book is about, but let’s just look at a few things for now.

One problem common to many of us is cascading stress and worry that can begin at any time, but often occurs because we haven’t slept enough. Among other bad things this does to us it usually means we’re late for work which just adds to the stress load. Stress and worry often are the reasons why we couldn’t sleep, so if they’re still bothering us on the way to work, we add even more to our stress load.

Maybe we were worrying because we felt we had to finish something for work that seemed an emergency so we didn’t  go to bed near on time. Or we went to bed but woke up at 2 am worrying about the work or the job itself, or about how to get a less stressful job that might pay less but would at least pay the bills (but what would people say?) or worried about our kid(s), spouse, friend, or a conflict we had with someone. Or we might be in physical pain and the pain keeps us up but we don’t want to take too many painkillers, or we desperately need a vacation or some kind of downtime and how can we possibly get it or afford to go much of anywhere even if we do get it, or how can we get the neighbors to stop using leaf-blowers so much so we can enjoy our own yard more and not be so constantly desperate to get away to someplace quiet, etc.

Once we’ve made it to work we have to hurry to get in gear and produce even though we’re tired from so little sleep. We have to be sure not to snap at someone just because we’re worried and exhausted.  We wish we had a job that didn’t take so much out of us or a boss who believed in a less arduous schedule, but who has time to find one and would our commute be even worse than it is now?

For many of us in our country, this is daily life. It probably is similar in other countries in which people live our lifestyle or try to. Many of these issues feel even worse in our chaotic, loud, crazy cities than they might in more rural areas, though those not in cities go through a lot of this too.

One thing my research has revealed to me is that it’s much harder to slow this whole process of living at high speed and often near-panic when many people around us are living at the same pace. Yet if we don’t slow down our levels of stress hormones such as cortisol are likely to remain high, making a slew of illnesses more possible for us due to the inflammation caused by stress. (You probably know this already, but inflammation seems to be the source of many of our illnesses.)

I write a great deal about the staggering effects of stress on people, and I find that Americans seem to have a unique brand of stressful lifestyle and approach to life that’s extra tricky and tough to battle. Not that we all willingly choose to live this way. Many of us are simply infused with a work ethic that seems oriented toward acquiring fame or power or at least being near the top of the competition most of the time (in addition to more money, that while up to a certain number of dollars is helpful, may in fact be unnecessary in larger amounts for us to be happy. Yet we’re not necessarily aware, or maybe we forget sometimes, of how trapped in this vortex we can become. We’re too busy just trying to get through it all.

The need for fame or wealth beyond what’s practical or pretty okay may come partly from a completely understandable craving to matter in this world, to be known as someone who walked this earth and made something happen that was good or useful. But there are many ways to be good and useful without shortening our lives from stress in the process. It helps to accept that not every one of us can be high-profile. Certainly most of us can’t be super-wealthy. So if we turn out to be one of the majority who are not going to be famous or wealthy, we can reduce our stress and our constant speeding through life to get wherever we’re trying so hard to go by accepting that and getting on with the business of living a meaningful life that makes us and a few others happy. I absolutely believe this is possible, though it would help us all if we got a little support from government and businesses. They can help by learning about what helps people become happy and healthy, and a big part of what I try to do is show them the research on this. It can help them help us to thrive.

Here are not all, but a few things, most suggested by research, that can help us and help our leaders help us:

Access to nature close to home most days (without industrial noise)–so more quiet local parks and gardens not filled with traffic noise and fumes

Access to safe places to move and exercise outside in bright light, away from traffic & other industrial noise & fumes

Access to many easy places to meet and socialize with those living near us, places such as coffee shops and cafes, ideally including outdoor seating, and ideally away from traffic, near home so we can walk to them

Noise and fume laws that are well enforced, so that wellbeing doesn’t continue to plummet due to bullying by thousands of leaf-blowers and other loud, unhealthy lawn equipment (leaf-blower fumes especially are truly dangerous to our health due to their particulates highly suspected to cause cancer, and leaf-blower noise is extremely bad for mental health, causing misery for millions around the world)

Access to abundant healthy organic plant food for all in even the poorest neighborhoods, through stores, farmers’ markets, and community gardens

Highest quality efficient transportation services so we can get where we need to go without added cascades of stress hormones

Higher minimum wage, and more time off for everyone; Americans are absurdly and dangerously overworked, and many are absurdly and dangerously underpaid. These are both recipes for extreme stress and shortened lives.

Homes for every single person. There are many exciting and innovative ways to do this. It can be done and we must do it. No more homelessness is necessary.  Look at Los Angeles for starters.

Drastic reduction of firearms across the country. The U.S. gun prevalence is absurd, barbaric, cruel, and beneath the dignity of a supposedly advanced country considered (at one time) to lead the world

Good health care for everyone including the homeless (who we’re going to house ASAP, right?)

Tax breaks and other aids and incentives for everyone to have a garden, large or tiny

Education (especially for the President and EPA) and directions for all in taking immediate steps to stop pollution and global warming, using gardens, green roofs, conservation in general, solar panels in more places (with more help in paying for them), more parks, more trees (again more nature also does wonders for our wellbeing, too, but it must be away from industrial noise and fumes to work the most magic, and we need to drastically reduce all such fumes to help global warming anyway)

Kindness and respect for others’ desperate need for quiet and nature. Caring for others’ peace of mind–why they need some quiet–includes such thoughtful acts as not turning on speaker phones or shouting into phones so everyone in the cafe or park must listen to only that person and is forced by them to stop their own conversation, reading, or thinking. In other words not invading each others’ sound space which we do throughout our current society indoors and out to a degree that everyone’s stress hormones must surely be at way above normal levels most of the day. We cannot close our ears the way we close our eyes, and most of us can’t carry around noise-cancelling headphones, nor should we feel forced to wear them just to keep our own stress levels down. Public service announcements would help a lot with this problem since so many people seem unaware of the damage they’re doing to fellow citizens.

I’ll write more on noise later–it’s a huge problem–but it helps to make sure our government leaders know the World Health Organization (WHO) considers loud industrial noise to be so damaging that it calls it a worldwide health emergency.


Classic movies for a good mood

Susan Cooke

If you’re stressed, depressed, or anxious, these movies are a joy and might help. I’ll post more here later as I think of them. I bet you’ve never heard of some of them! I list movie first, then main actor(s):

My Man Godfrey—William Powell & Carole Lombard

The Voice of the Turtle—Eleanor Parker & Ronald Reagan

Lucky Partners—Ginger Rogers and Ronald Coleman

Desk Set—Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

Vivacious Lady—James Stewart & Ginger Rogers

I Love you Again—William Powell & Myrna Loy

Biography of a Bachelor Girl—Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery & Edward Everett Horton

Hands Across the Table—Carole Lombard

Miranda—Glynis Johns

You’ve Got Mail—Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks

The Runaway Bride—Julia Roberts & Richard Gere

My Big Fat Greek Wedding—Nia Vardalos (& edited by my cousin Mia Goldman!)

When Harry met Sally—Meg Ryan & Billy Crystal

Double Wedding—William Powell & Myrna Loy

The Talk of the Town—Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur

The Shop Around the Corner—James Stewart & Margaret Sullavan

Never Say Goodbye—Errol Flynn & Eleanor Parker

Easy Living—Jean Arthur, Ray Milland, Edward Arnold

The Devil and Miss Jones—Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, & Charles Coburn

A Foreign Affair—Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund

The  Doctor Takes a Wife—Ray Milland & Loretta Young

The More the Merrier—Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea

Key to the City— Young & Clark Gable

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford—Jean Arthur & William Powell

More than a Secretary—Jean Arthur & George Brent

Mother is a Freshman—Van Johnson & Loretta Young

Come to the Stable—Loretta Young & Celeste Holm

People will Talk—Cary Grant & Jeanne Crain (only partly a comedy but wonderful)