Happy Tuesday TNW Fam! I hope you’re having a lovely week so far and indulging in your fair share of summer activities and sunshine-y goodness! I flew back into Toronto on Sunday from visiting family in Alberta all last week (I'll add a few photos here), and while it was refreshing and relaxing, it always feels so good to be home!
When I was thinking about this week’s blog post, it occurred to me that I have so many ideas for topics surrounding sustainability, zero waste and slow living; but if I don’t start at the beginning.. all those ideas end up simply becoming more tips for you to attempt to integrate into your already packed and busy lives. LISTEN.. none of us have time for more of that nonsense!
So today I wanted to touch, before we dive any further into this, on where I believe the journey to mindful (and ultimately lower waste) living actually begins ….wait for it: heart posture.
Not what you were expecting? Me either. Trust me, in the past I’ve spent far too much time and money jumping on the latest trends and building excitement around all the lifestyle changes I was going to make. This only to resort back to old habits and routines in the weeks and months shortly following my most recent oath. When it comes to adopting a new habit or choosing to live differently than you previously have been, the truth is that the adjustment period is inconvenient. The aches and pains of growth and change aren’t comfortable and they require intentional effort. What I found for myself was that if the changes being made were based off of a trend that I found cool, or simply something that I thought was the “good”/“right” thing to do, etc.. they wouldn’t last.
Most real change comes from a deeper place of purpose and reason, which can actually be explained by our biology. Simon Sinek says it best when he talks about starting with your ‘why’ (if you haven’t seen his Ted Talk, do yourself a favour and watch it here). He describes how our decision making begins in the brain though we often take action that we can’t necessarily rationalize and, as a result, find ourselves being internally driven to do the things we do (both positive and negative). The part of the brain where language, abstract and creative ideas originate is called the neocortex. The neocortex is the largest part of the cerebral cortex and is essentially involved in higher-order brain functions. Surprisingly, the cerebral cortex, (which forms part of a larger brain structure, the rational and reasonable prefrontal cortex) only accounts for 5% of our decision-making process. The rest of the process is carried out with the part of our brain coined as the limbic system, which mainly accounts for emotions and memories. Sinek talks about making decisions with our limbic brain, or “from the inside-out”, meaning that there is a part of our brain that controls decision making but not language. This shows up through scenarios in life where we have rationally decided to make ‘good’ changes, yet we choose, instead, to continue our less desirable habits because we have trained the part of our brain that ultimately makes decisions and drives action, to do so. In order to adjust this behaviour, we need to dig deeper until we can arrive at the place where our limbic system can connect an emotion to the cause we are trying to care about for our rationalizing neocortex to grab onto.
It’s not until we are able to comprehend and latch on to a deeper reason, or attachment to a specific cause that our actions begin to line up with our rational mind. When you care about something deeply, when you posture your heart to cultivate value around a particular cause, you begin to lead with your heart (or what some refer to as your gut). This ‘heart' is actually the inner part of your limbic brain and carries a greater weight in the decision making process than the prefrontal cortex.
Okay, deep breath! If you’re not a science-lover, stick with me - this isn’t complicated! It actually boils down to just this: cultivate your heart posture (or why/reason/motivation) BEFORE you attempt to adjust your actions. If you don’t truly believe in something or feel in your gut that it is the right thing to do.. your effort simply won’t stick.
The BEST part about this entire reality is that you have absolute control over yourself, what you believe and the actions that build your life. That means that if you don’t currently feel truly passionate about reducing the waste from your home, I have great news.. YOU CAN CHANGE THAT.
You have the opportunity to surround yourself with people who are passionate about our beautiful planet! You can begin to consume media and educational materials that open your mind to what’s going on at a deeper level and what the repercussions of your current apathy can amount to! You can begin having conversations with humans who hold different perspectives than those you were raised with! You can do everything in your power to actually re-write the paths of your neuroplastic brain until your habits line up with your rational values, resulting in decisions that come from a place of belief and passion instead of through idea-based action alone.
To wrap this little soap box up: if you get an inkling that journeying towards slower, more intentional ways of living is a positive, valuable thing you would like to venture into, I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on why you think that. Before chucking all your plastic containers out the window, before taking to social media to squawk at people using disposable straws, before trying to find new sources for all of your food and feeling overwhelmed by the inflated prices or organic produce.. ask yourself, 'what makes this valuable'?
Maybe for you it's the compassion you feel for the next generation who didn’t ask to be handed a world full of mess they didn’t create.
It may be the deep adoration and love for nature that you feel deserves to be treated with respect.
Perhaps it’s the connection and responsibility you feel towards protecting the wellbeing of innocent animals affected by human choices.
Whatever resonates for you, find it. Learn about it. Talk about it. Allow feelings of passion, genuine interest, hope, and desire for a better way of being to fill your heart and become the catalyst for the action steps you choose to take. And then, my friend.. set out on that journey with excitement and grace for yourself and others. Go slow and cultivate a culture of deep change within yourself and let it bubble over to those around you.
I’ll leave you with the question I’m asking myself daily: “Why?”
Let me know what your personal “why” for slow, sustainable living is below, and if you don’t yet have one, are you going to begin to look for one?