Embracing Uniqueness and Building Successful Habits
As a sustainability blog trying to provide information on how we can live more sustainable lives, I often reflect upon my writing to ensure that I am providing a welcoming space of information, knowledge and action. I want to remain as non-judgemental as possible and alternatively welcome inclusivity into living a life that supports the environment, people and our own personal development/health. I am trying to bring about a space of information in which we can look at our own lives and the lives of others, and think about how our actions have an impact. I often find myself having conversations with some of my friends who I would not necessarily label as environmentalists, but regardless still care about the environment. I find a way to connect to them, acknowledge them and relate to them. We talk about all sorts of topics, depending on the person. We talk about topics that most of us have an opinion/knowledge on: the problem with plastics, governmental action, the use of energy, wildlife, and careers. The environment is impacted by it all, whether it is directly or not. I believe that everyone wants a healthy and happy planet, after all, it is our home. It is not just the people who brush their teeth with bamboo toothbrushes and eat plant-based meals who want a healthy world. We all do.
We all know that we are in a climate emergency. And most of us understand that, still, we as a society and governments are not taking enough action. It can be extremely overwhelming not knowing where to start! There are so many ways to be a climate activist, and that doesn’t mean we have to do everything perfectly. However, we do need to start somewhere. We’ve all been there: opening up our social media apps to a Greta Thunberg speech on how we’re not doing enough to tackle climate change, and scrolling through news updates on how arctic ice is melting at dangerous rates. This fearful and anxiety inducing information triggers an area of our brain to either fight, flight or freeze. We either act upon it/do something about it (fight), we run away from the problems by getting distracted around other things in our lives (flight), or we sit in hopeless
misery (freeze). These are often our initial responses. Of course we want to be the one to get up and do something about it, but in reality most of us don’t. And that doesn’t make us bad people, it means we are human. Our fight stems from our willpower and we can only be driven by willpower for so long until we reach burnout. In order to be the fighter, the one who takes action on the things that we care about and are important in the world, we need systems that set us up for success. We need to build meaningful habits.
I decided at the end of my second year of university to have a second major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. In Community Development I was learning about the intersectionality of the environment in the development of our communities. I had always loved the outdoors, hiking, and recycling. I liked doing my part to make a difference in the world, and exploring it! However, prior to switching into Environmental and Sustainability Studies, I would not have considered myself to be an environmentalist. Throughout my studies in Community Development, environmental affairs were brought about in nearly all of my courses. It was then, that I started realizing how much the environment is connected in everything we do. I was driven by my education followed by my willpower to truly and authentically become an environmentalist. My willpower helped spark the fire in living a sustainable life, but what was even more powerful in my life was my sustainable habits.
It can seem harder for some of us to live more sustainably than others. And I do want to acknowledge that each and every one of our lives all look so-very different. Based on our environment/surroundings, and privileges in our society, it is easier for some than others. Let’s remember to be kind to ourselves and others when thinking about our practices and ways of life. There is no cookie-cutter solution of what exactly a sustainable life looks like; implementing sustainable habits looks different for everyone. We must learn to better our everyday routines to set our individual lives up for success, that is uniquely yours. And besides, if all of us were doing exactly the same things, living the exact same routines, life wouldn’t be so special. It is the simple acknowledgement of the diversity of our own world and communities that makes life so beautiful.
When setting new habits, we must ask ourselves these simple questions and dive as deep as possible into the: Why? What? How? When? Where? Who? Let’s build one habit together using a structure that I have recently learned from Jay Shetty (I highly recommend his podcast and book)!
Example New Habit: Eat Less Meat
WHY? Think about the benefits of eating less meat… Why are you driven to eat less meat? Dive deep into why you truly want to eat less meat…
“The production of meat uses up a lot of land and resources. There is a high amount of greenhouse gases used throughout the process, therefore our consumption of meat makes our environmental impact greater. I want to eat less meat because I want to be a part of the solution. I want to eat less meat to be a leader in climate change.”
WHAT? Think about what exactly you will be doing. Again, dive deep into this! Give the details of what it means to eat less meat.
“I will commit to Meatless Mondays. Every Monday I will commit to eating and cooking only plant-based foods. I will allow myself to eat meat no more than once a day on weekdays.”
HOW? How will you hold yourself accountable and follow through with this new habit? DIVE DEEP. How will you be eating less meat? And what will help make the process easier for you?
“I will prepare my meals on Sunday nights and have an idea of what I will be eating throughout the week. I will make a grocery list and make sure I have alternative sources of protein for Meatless Mondays. I will buy versatile ingredients and spices to make sure I can really enjoy my food!”
WHEN? Pretty straight forward here. When will you be eating less meat?
“All days on Mondays and only once a day throughout the week!”
WHERE? Where will you be following through with your habit? When starting a new habit it is best to have consistency at the beginning. Your physical space and routine in that space will bring in more ease to your new habit.
“I will eat at my dinner table every Monday night for Meatless Mondays!”
WHO? When following through with a new habit, it always helps to have someone to hold you accountable AND to go along the ride with you. Who will you be eating less meat with? Or who will you be talking to about your new habit? It’s always more enjoyable when you can relate to someone else and their experience and share your insights!
“I will be doing Meatless Mondays with my family. We will swap who cooks week by week! I will check in with my boyfriend about it as he is a vegetarian and can help me coach my way through it!”
“Awareness is not the same as action” —Jay Shetty.
I hope this hypothetical habit explanation will help you and your loved ones to build healthier and more sustainable habits for yourself. The habit I am currently working on is meditating every day.
We can be aware of a lot. But let’s use our awareness to take action. To set ourselves up for maximum success, I suggest picking ONE habit to dive deeply into writing down your why, what, how, when, where, and who. In future writings you can expect to hear more about specific habits and what we can do to live better lives for ourselves and the planet.
What is your why?
A special thank you to my professor Alan Warner from Acadia University for being the first one to teach me about building healthier habits. You gave me so much knowledge and tools to become a better climate advocate and human being. Another thank you to Jay Shetty for diving deep into why habits are so powerful to building the best versions of ourselves. I needed an extra shove at this time in my life.