2020 has been full of events that could take a toll on a person's mental health. Between the pandemic, racial tensions, natural disasters, a recession, and bitter political battles, is it any wonder that many Americans are feeling down?

Wake Forest University professor of counseling Dr. Sam Gladding spoke with WFDD's David Ford about this convergence of negative events and its impacts, but also about how to keep moving forward. He says that being overexposed isn't good in photography or life, so limiting yourself to a certain amount of toxicity each day is probably a good thing.

Gladding says spending time outdoors in the fresh air, away from screens of any kind provides some perspective. He adds that hiking, gardening, and walks in the neighborhood all lend themselves to looking ahead, and envisioning where in life you'd like to be in the future.

Interview Highlights

On how the arts can combat depression: 

One is music. I always say that you can't listen to good classical music and be depressed because there's an uplifting beat. You can't listen to ABBA and be depressed. It's just got too much of a good beat for you to just be depressed. You can't. Journaling has also been found to help people move out of fear, depression. If you journal regularly, it clarifies thoughts. Or, if you write letters to people — not email, write letters — you are better yet because you are being thoughtful, you're being purposeful, and you're thinking outside of who you are and into who they are and what you can do for them.

On the power of humor:

When you're laughing, your brain chemistry even changes a bit as well as your physical self. Your lungs are filling up then you're getting some breathing. It's a wonderful counterpart to anything that might be occurring that's negative in your life. So, during this time, my wife and I have been watching a lot of comedy, and we feel better. And it gives us something other than bad news or politics to talk about.

On the need for empathy:

Try to empathize with people that you even disagree with, trying to take their perspective. You may not agree with it — that would not be the point. The point would be to try to see the world through their eyes so that you understand them better and don't demonize them just because you disagree with them.

For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus in North Carolina, visit our Live Updates blog here. WFDD wants to hear your stories — connect with us and let us know what you're experiencing.

Editor's Note: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

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