Faculty member gives advice on post-election letdown, election result discussions

Monday, November 7, 2016 - 09:16

If you’ve spent many hours the last year or two checking the latest presidential campaign news on the Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Politico and other websites  watching or listening to political pundits and monitoring the polls, you may start feeling empty on Wednesday (Nov. 9), after the U.S. has a new president. You may wonder how to fill the hours that you had devoted to politics.

Joshua Hook, associate professor of psychology at the University of North Texas, says it’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of letdown or sadness after spending much of your time and energy focusing on and looking forward to a particular event, including an election.

“Even if your side wins, you will wake up the next morning and realize that everything in your own life is mostly the same,” he says. “Sometimes, there’s more joy in the process of being engaged than in the actual outcome, and the actual outcome may not bring the amazing feelings that you imagined.”

He gives several tips for beating post-election blues:

Avoid staking your expectations on something that is outside of your control. “We can put a lot of hopes and dreams into an election and think ‘If my political party wins, life will be so much better,’” Hook says. “If you do that, you’re likely to be disappointed when your expectations don’t align with your reality. Instead, find something that’s in your own control to focus your hopes and dreams around.”

Realize that most people, including you, have a stable set point for how happy they are. Happiness might increase or decrease for a short time after the results of an election, but usually returns to your set point. “Pretty soon, you should come back to where you were before the campaign and election,” Hook says.         

Get back to your normal routine as soon as possible after the election. “Re-engage in things that bring you joy on a daily basis, like meaningful work, exercise, hobbies, religious and spiritual involvement, and time spent with family, friends and significant others,” Hook says.

What about discussing election results with those who feel differently than you about the outcome — which may be unavoidable when you go to Thanksgiving dinner or another family gathering during the holidays and must interact with relatives you rarely see?

Hook says that if the family hasn’t agreed to not discuss politics around the dinner table, “the ideal thing is to take a few deep breaths, not get triggered and realize that people can have differences of opinion.

“Trying to convince other people that their opinions are wrong and yours are right doesn’t work. Remind yourself that just as you don’t have to change your opinions, they don’t have to change theirs,” he says. “Try to understand the other person’s perspective with humility.”

Not having too high of an expectation for a “nice, cordial conversation” about politics will also help, Hook says.

“It might be best to find some other topic you can both laugh about,” he says.

Hook may be contacted at 940-369-8076 or at joshua.hook@unt.edu. You can also follow his blog at www.JoshuaNHook.com


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