Psychology Sustainable Living

(eco)Mindfulness: The Attention Shift We All Should Be Making

July 24, 2019

In March, I wrote a series of articles about mindfulness in many areas of our PERSONAL lives– diet, fitness, stress management. We know that practicing mindfulness and being more present in the moment cant help us psychologically & physically. These motives are all driven by a desire to better ourselves personally. However today I would like to make the shift by looking at mindfulness not in an internal manner but rather, outward.

So this means taking all of the ideas of mindfulness, presence and attention and shifting them outwards, towards the environment, the future of the planet and even the giant plastic demon that has finally come round to stare us in the face.

I think that in the war of sustainability and eco-friendliness- Mindfulness is the FIRST STEP. How can we change, if we aren’t aware?

It’s a lot to take on and I’m not saying being more aware is a cheery thing either. Like when we see tear-jerking pictures of starving polar bears and whales washing to shore with their bellies full of plastic. Sometimes it’s easier to think “I wish I could help, I can’t do anything about it.” or ” Poor things, I can’t stand looking”.

That’s where you are wrong. While it’s much easier to close the internet page, or turn off the TV, we all have to buck up and realize WE ARE ALL responsible and CAN make a positive impact. It means changing our way of thinking before we change our way of acting.

Everyday we do things that may seem so banal we have forgotten the true impact. Take, garbage for example. We open the mail- throw out advertising/envelopes, we drink bottled water and chuck the bottle, we discard empty food packages, we forget food in the back of the fridge and it ends up in the garbage. This is every single day. At the end of the week we have trash bins that are full of plastic bottles, letters, papers, glass, food waste. We think nothing of it and eventually bring it to the collective trash area in our apartments or we put it on the curb and it will ‘disappear’ soon enough.

These are the moments that we need that slap in the face from eco-mindfulness to bring that image of the polar bear or whale back to mind. Instead of saying “I can’t do anything about it.” we can say “I’ll try to reduce some of my trash by buying a reusable (Non-plastic) water bottle.” It is about the little things. You don’t have to go from zero to no waste in 3.4 seconds. You’re not a Ferrari.

In fact today I’m not even talking about changing our actions, just our attention. Work on becoming informed and aware of the impact of your style of life. Sometimes to become more mindful we have to accept hard truths about ourselves and the way we currently live. I sure have. I came to a point where I was so aware of how much plastic was being used around me, and how much I was personally contributing as well. This uncomfortable thought pushed me to make changes. We aren’t all ‘doomed’ and it isn’t too late to change the way we think.

By taking into mind the mindfulness tips mentioned in the Mindful March series, we can shift our attention outwards. Raising awareness of the consequences of our actions will help to push us towards changing them. Although sometimes it’s really easy to say ‘oh screw it’ and fall back into habits that aren’t eco-friendly for commodity, it’s all about mentally training ourselves into being aware and catching ourselves.

So in order to embrace changing our actions– let us take the first baby step and begin to change the way we think.

How can I start to be more eco-aware?

  1. Be Informed: watch the news stories, learn about new alternatives and embrace the hard truths one at a time. You could try following some zero-waste, sustainable living, environmental instagrammers or pages to get more involved in the topics.
  2. Accept your role: we all have to accept our influence and assume responsibility. We’ve gotta be the change and quit waiting for someone else to solve the problem.
  3. Reflect on the possible ways to change: during your daily routine, think about whether what you are doing is the most ecological solution. Most likely the answer will be no for many of our daily habits. All of these no’s open up a space for mindful thinking. Instead of what you currently do– brainstorm some better solutions.
  4. Take a Mental Vinyasa: it’s hard to change our ways– so when you do catch yourself falling back into old ways (for example: buying a plastic bottle of water because you are thirsty and it’s the easiest option)– take a few deep breaths and make a mental note on how to avoid this the next time. For example “next time I’ll remember to bring my own” or “I wonder if there was a water fountain close by”.

Eco- Mindfulness Task:

This week I want you to try out #4 from the list. As you run through your routine each day, take a moment to ask yourself if each action or choice is the best solution. Is there an easy alternative? Would you be willing to implement it into your life?

Some things you can consider:
Morning/evening routine: products used for shower, hair care, make up.
Cleaning routines and products used: laundry, dishes etc.
Meals: food origin, seasonality, dining out, packaging.
Consumption: lights, gas, A/C or heat, car use

Author: Ali @ Sustainable Psyche

My name is Ali. I am an American living in Italy. I am passionate about delicious food that is also ethical, healthy and sustainable. I love pasta and pizza, traveling, horseback riding and exploring the vibrant city of Milan that I call home.

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