Choosing to live ethically isn’t always easy.
While the concepts of minimalism, veganism, zero-waste and other sustainable and conscious ways of living are becoming more popular and socially accepted, the journey can feel like climbing a never-ending mountain.
If you feel like you’re struggling to adopt or stay consistent with sustainable habits in your life, mindfulness practices such as meditation can help — both as a form of self-care and a way to reconnect with your ‘why’.
What is mindfulness and how do you do it?
Mindful.org describes it simply as practicing the art of creating space for ourselves — space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
Being mindful is asking yourself “what really matters?” and then responding with inspired action. Mindfulness also refers to a state of mind achieved by many different forms of meditation.
Being mindful means you exist comfortably in the present moment, instead of becoming lost in trivial worries, regrets about something in the past, or anxiety about the future.
Like many things in life, mindfulness is a practice. Regular meditation can not only change how we think about the social and environmental issues facing the world, but can also help us to take the actions needed to build a more sustainable society.
How Meditation Can Help You Live A More Sustainable Life
1. Strengthens appreciation for what you already have
Meditation is a great way to practice gratitude by realigning your thinking and uprooting deeply-set fears, attachments and bad habits.
We are constantly bombarded by ads and social media promoting a “more is more” mentality and that true happiness is only a purchase away.
By redirecting the focus of your thoughts from what you don’t have to what you do have is a powerful way to tap into the feelings of satisfaction and abundance.
Meditation helps dissolve feelings of worry, doubt and anxiety, allowing you to realize that in this moment you have everything you could ever need.
Through this sense of inner peace and appreciation, you can release the need to search for happiness in material things. It’s these thoughts of “enough-ness” that can dramatically change habits linked to over-consumption.
2. Increases self-awareness
We’ve become so used to consuming without thinking.
Everyday habits are hard to break, whether it’s picking up bottled water or sending rubbish to the landfill or buying that sixth mug because it’s pretty and you can “never have too many.”
When you become more self-aware, you’ll start to notice the situations or people that trigger excessive spending or the urge to buy more stuff.
Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest and suddenly need the necklace or shoes you favorite influencer is wearing? Did you catch a late-night infomercial and all of a sudden you’re justifying why you need that third, conveniently travel-sized, blender?
A heightened sense of self-awareness means you’re more like to stop and question yourself or a situation rather than act on impulse.
3. Gives you a chance to connect with your ‘why’
Making sustainable changes in your life can be overwhelming and it’s easy to slip back into the convenience of plastic bags, takeaway coffee cups and fast fashion.
Creating a lifestyle that aims to “do no harm” requires huge amounts of thoughtfulness and near-constant motivation.
Making meditation a part of your daily routine gives you a chance to circle back to your mission, values and ideals which inspire and drive your commitment to sustainable and ethical living.
4. Helps manage stress
We tend to be more compassionate when we’re in a good mood, am I right?
It’s easier to make the best decisions for ourselves and the world from a calm and centered place.
Irritability and stress can make it difficult to think empathetically, leaving us wrapped up in ourselves and prone to acting out.
When we’re stressed, we are more likely to procrastinate by heading to the mall or favorite online store instead of sitting with our feelings, working on that looming deadline or having that hard conversation with a friend.
Taking a few minutes to sit, be still and breathe will help increase your patience and prevent you from rushing from one thing to the next.
5. Eases ethical and activist burnout
In a world increasingly obsessed with quick-fixes, external appearances and temporary trends, it’s not easy to go against the grain and choose to slow down, cut the clutter and strive to live a simpler, kinder life.
The decision to make kinder choices for the planet, animals and your health can open you up to harsh judgment from others who think it’s a waste of time and are quick to call out any ‘mistakes’ you make along the way. Sometimes it feels like you’re never doing enough, but at the same time you know you can always do more.
From remembering the reusable shopping bags, to sourcing vegan/bulk ingredients, putting up with people making fun of your lifestyle choices, researching ethical stores or making homemade hummus (can recommend)— the amount of extra effort can be overwhelming.
This is probably where meditation is most helpful on your journey to a sustainable life. Its restful and calming benefits help you avoid burnout in the first place or be a vital part of recovery.
Meditation tackles the extra, energy-draining stress you might experience on a day-to-day basis. By improving your quality of sleep and giving you moments of deep and profound rest during the day, meditation will help you show up at full battery.
Being mindful helps you recognize the moments when you need to prioritize your self-care — after all, Mother Earth needs you at your best!
Taking care of the planet does not mean you should stop taking care of yourself. Sustainable living requires a sustainable approach!
It really does start with you
“Be the change you want to see in the world” is a go-to inspirational quote for a reason — how can we expect to inspire change around us without working towards it ourselves?
The best part is you don’t need to buy anything to practice mindfulness. You don’t need a special cushion or three more indoor plants to make your meditation space more ‘zen’. You can start today, right where you are.
Inner mindfulness paired with inspired and conscious action is the key to creating positive and lasting change. Take one step at a time, focus on what you can control and look for simple ways to integrate conscious consumption into your everyday life.
Whether it’s starting a type of meditation that resonates with you (and being willing to stick with it), asking “do I really need this” before buying something or taking three deep breathes before every meal, little pockets of self-awareness throughout you day will add up exponentially over time.