Let’s get real for a second. Our world’s on fire and when we face that, it’s actually pretty scary and overwhelming.
Climate change is happening, and having an impact. People are either going about their everyday lives ignoring it, in denial, feeling helpless to make any difference, or having moments of panic when they think about what that means for us and our children.
I feel you. It’s hard. We want to make changes, but feel like any change we could make is so small that it couldn’t possibly make a big enough impact. That it’s too late. We feel like throwing in the towel before we’ve begun. We distract ourselves so we don’t have to think about it.
It’s okay, sometimes we need those coping mechanisms. But I have some better ideas that could help you and your family embrace the changes that are needed.
You’re right. One person recycling one paper plate one time will not make enough of a difference to the health of our planet. However, if a person builds healthy habits, it’s a very different story.
Yes, you’ve heard this before and I can almost feel the eye-roll and the yawn that you are suppressing right now. You know what to do. You know all the things that would help, but…In real life, why don’t we do them? Why don’t we see them through?
Becoming a real life Eco Warrior is actually a hell of a lot easier than it at first looks. I promise. Here’s how.
1. FLIP IT
Start to identify as someone who cares deeply for the environment and takes daily actions to support it. It’s all about your mindset. If you decide that it will be hard, or complicated, then it will. If you flip it around and decide that it’ll be fun, and it’ll be part of your new identity then it will.
All you need to do is get into a new habit.
For example, if you decide that it’ll be fun to go to the gym every day, you’d have a much higher chance of being successful if you look at it like something hideous you’re putting yourself through.
So flip the way you feel and decide to go all in! It only takes 21 days to form a new habit. Once it’s habitual it’ll be a natural and easy part of your everyday life.
2. GET A MANTRA
One of the most powerful tools to building a new habit is also one of the simplest: The Mantra.
You already use mantras.‘I hate my nose’,‘I hate dentists’, ‘I always date crazy people’, You’ve already created the reality you live in via the thoughts, beliefs, mantras, habits and actions you’ve repeated over and over throughout your life.
You experience whatever you believe, and you believe whatever you tell yourself repeatedly.
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the changes you need to make to your life to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle, you need a mantra to make you feel optimistic and committed.
Here are a few Mantras that can help (but write your own to make it more personal): ‘It’s easy to make a difference.’
‘It feels new and exciting to take this on, and I learn as I go.’
‘I do my best and leave the rest’.
A good Mantra is written in the present tense and often starts with the words ‘I am…’ They also don’t contain any negative words, and favour the positive.
Once you’ve got your mantra, repeat it every chance you get.
When you wake up. Before you go to sleep. Tell a friend. Say it to your pet. When you’re driving. Repetition is your friend.
3. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Habits like things to be easy. This is possibly why you haven’t stuck with something new before. Make it as easy as possible.
So storing your recycling in some obscure place that’s hard to reach, won’t help you want to recycle. Help yourself by storing it somewhere that’s easy to access and see. Bonus points if it’s easy to take out, so think about a container as well.
Write a list of all the small tweaks you can make at home to make things easier. Written reminders to switch out lights, putting your compost bin somewhere visible, having a fridge full of vegetables if you want to cut back on meat or keep your reusable bag in your car so you don’t forget it.
4. BUDDY UP
You are an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Make sure that they are good ones! Are the people you surround yourself with also on the same wavelength as you? Or do they make sarcastic comments when you buy eco-friendly products? Do they say recycling is a “waste of time”?
Make sure that for the next 21 days you spend time with people who are friendly to your mission. It’s also helpful to have an accountability buddy. This is someone who will check in with you and keep you on track. If you decided you want to cut back on driving, you could walk each other to work, or share a bus ride. If you decided to have meat free week days, you could swap plant based recipes. It’s easier with support. You’ll be sure to find some local Facebook groups who are on the same journey.
5. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR HOME
What are the things you do/use/buy on a regular basis that you could easily swap out with environmentally friendly products? Switching toothpastes, toothbrushes, washing powder, are some. Switching to compostable coffee capsules or buying clothes second hand are others. Grab a pen and paper, and create a list of all the changes that you could make. Don’t let expenses or any limitations influence your list – it’s just a list. Make it as long as possible – set your imagination free. Some will be changes you can make now, some over time. Make a wish list of products that you can switch to in the coming future.
6. HABIT STACK
Think of all the habits you already have. Eating, drinking, brushing your teeth etc. Tie the new habit to an old one, so that it saves doing extra work. So for example, take out your recycling (new habit) after dinner each night (old habit). Or carrying your reusable water bottle when you leave home after breakfast for work.
7. WORDS ARE POWERFUL
Be aware of your words. You will come up against resistance sometimes, where you’ll want to take the short cut, buy the cheaper option, etc. Be ready for this. Watch your thoughts and words, like “I never stick to anything” “I have no willpower.” Avoid saying things like “I can’t”, “I never”, and switch them out with “I can”, “I do”, “I am” as much as possible. Be a helicopter parent to your thoughts over the next 21 days. The great thing is you’re an expert on you! You have all the insider information on when you usually give up, and why. Use it to your advantage.
8. IDENTIFY AND EMBODY
Imagine how you would look if you already lived the lifestyle that you’re in the process of creating. What does that look like for you? What do you wear? What do you do? What do you definitely not do? Start to step into those “shoes”. Start to speak and act as that person. Embody that person, instead of seeing them as some far off future person.
9. DO NOT NEGOTIATE
Your mind can sometimes feel like an enemy. It wants to talk you out of doing the things that you know are good for you. It wants to take the easy way out. Do not negotiate with it!
Do not get tempted to buy the extras at the grocery stores or the clothes and shoes just because they look good. Buy things only when you really need them.
10. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS AND REWARD YOURSELF
Some habits are rewarding right away, some take time to show results. Track how many days you’ve been committed to making changes. Stick a reward chart on the fridge and mark each day. Make sure you reward yourself when you reach certain targets. Maybe for each week you get yourself a treat from your wish list. (see point 5).
Be proud of yourself and why you’re doing this! All the little changes add up. If everyone did what you’re doing we’d be there already. You are showing others it’s possible to change. Your actions are a shining beacon of light in a world that sometimes needs inspiration. Last of all, do not get overwhelmed by all these changes. Start small, and start by making fewer changes that you can follow through with. Don’t make all changes at one go, as that can be difficult and hence demotivating! Remember, it’s okay to do this imperfectly!