Each and every day, we’re inundated with stories about how the world is going to hell. War, poverty, pollution… all manner of atrocities are flung at us from all directions, and it’s enough to draw even the most lighthearted person into a pit of despair.
Fortunately, a great way to counteract all that ugly is to be the change we want to see. None of us can change the entire world all by ourselves, but by making small amendments in our own lives and encouraging others to do the same, a snowball effect occurs that can affect the entire planet in time. Here are a few simple ways that you (yes, even you) can help bring about positive change in the world:
For every bit of horrible dreck floating about on the Internet or in the news, there’s an amazing, beautiful story to counteract it. Stop wallowing in the fear-mongering ugliness that the general media tries to fling at you, and instead, let yourself be inspired by the wonder, beauty, and compassion in the world.
Websites like The Daily Good, Positive News, and even Huffington Post’s “Good News” section are all filled with uplifting stories that can serve to remind you that there’s a hell of a lot of good in the world. Once your heart is glowing, tweet, and pin those stories so others can be inspired as well.
Plant a Garden
You’d be surprised what a little patch of green space can do for the environment, and if you have a bit of land that you can turn into a garden, you’ll make more of an impact in your corner of the planet than you realise. Planting and harvesting your own food means that less has to be carted in from other countries, which decreases the amount of fuel that’ll be shot off into the atmosphere. If instead of food you’d like a flower and herb garden, plant flowers that attract and feed pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds: they’re disappearing at an alarming rate because of pesticide and insecticide use, so an organic garden full of delicious blossom and seeding plants (like sunflowers, amaranth, and millet) will help exponentially.
If you don’t have your own land but have a thoroughly green thumb, consider getting involved in a community garden project: you’ll help others to develop their gardening skills, help to empower them by showing them how to be self-sufficient with their food security, and that garden will become a supportive ecosystem to all kinds of insects and small animals.
You don’t have to follow any particular religion or philosophy to meditate, and nor does meditation have to involve sitting cross-legged on the floor while chanting in a language you don’t understand. Ultimately, meditation is just a mindfulness practice that involves calming your thoughts and emotions so you can be in the present moment. This helps to calm frayed nerves to alleviate stress and anxiety, and creates a sense of peace and tranquility of spirit. That inner peace reflects upon all other facets of life: you may have more patience with others, or have greater self esteem, or even just be able to appreciate the little bits of beauty you come across instead of being swamped by all the negativity in the world.
Speak Up, and Take Action
If there are issues that concern you, use your voice to bring attention to them. Sign petitions, write letters to your member of parliament, make an appointment to sit down with someone who has the power to change things, and discuss your worries with them. If someone you know treats another badly, then call them out on their bad behaviour: saying nothing is basically just condoning said poor behaviour, and will make the one getting hurt feel that no-one is there to support or defend them.
Should you find out that the company that makes your favourite chocolate bar/deodorant/drink has questionable practices, then find a more ethical product that you enjoy just as much, and write to the company you’re now boycotting to let them know why you’ll no longer support them. Your voice can make a profound impact, so let it be heard.
You’re probably quite vigilant with regard to disposing of garbage properly, but others may not be quite so conscientious. If you see a piece of rubbish lying about that some jerk has tossed out their car window or just dropped on the ground, throw it out. Keep a pair of rubber or latex gloves in your bag if you don’t want to touch anything that’s potentially “icky”, but keep in mind that every little bit of effort helps when it comes to cleaning up our living spaces.
If you live in Canada and love all things aquatic, consider getting involved in the David Suzuki Foundation’s Great Shoreline Cleanup: join forces with others to clean up rivers, lake shores, ponds, creeks, and even beaches along the ocean. There are similar initiatives in other countries, so just do a quick search for environmental clean-up groups in your area, and get involved!
On that very topic…
Stop Polluting the Water
Have you ever been thirsty? I mean, truly parched? So thirsty that your throat started to close up and your lips were cracking and you thought you were going to die? Consider the fact that our bodies are comprised of nearly 70% water, and nearly all animals and plants require water to survive. Then think about the fact that only 2% of all water on earth is drinkable, and a significant amount of that is now polluted because of all the crap we keep dumping into it. Every drop of chemical cleaner, every drop of hair dye, every bit of pesticide, paint, non-biodegradable laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. gets into the water system, and although the drinking water in cities is filtered a great deal, most of those toxins still leak into the soil and underground water table, killing life around the planet. People and animals all over the world often have to choose between dying of thirst, and poisoning themselves with tainted water supplies.
Be very conscious about what it is you pour down your drains or use on your lawns, and try to be as eco-friendly as possible. If you dye your hair, try plant-based dyes or henna instead. Instead of harsh household cleaners, all you really need are vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. To help take action for clean drinking water, look into groups like Waterkeeper Alliance, which has chapters all over the world that you can get involved with.
Reconsider Your Eating Habits
Write a list of the items you normally buy at the grocery store, and consider doing a bit of research on where these items come from. Does your favourite brand use mostly GMO ingredients? If you eat meat, is it from local sources where the animals are treated ethically? Are your eggs free-range, or do they come from a place where the birds are crammed into small cages? Is the sugar you buy harvested by children? Are your organic vegetables picked by people who earn a living wage?
Delve into the sources of your food and determine whether you’re contributing to the well-being of others, or if your habits could be a little more compassionate and conscientious.
Find Out More About What You Buy/Wear/Use
Just like food, clothing has to come from somewhere, but few people take the time to really research the origins of their clothes. Does the company that makes your shirt source pesticide-laden cotton from a developing country? Have your jeans been sewn by children’s hands in Thailand or India? Were any animals harmed to source real fur trim for your jacket or boots? Was any water polluted to create the PVC in your bag or shoes? Educate yourself so that you can educate others, and speak out against mistreatment when you come across it.
There are many different ways to donate your time to others, so don’t feel that you have to put yourself in a position you’re uncomfortable with in order to make a difference. Some people might be happy working in soup kitchens or helping street youth, while others may not, and that’s totally okay! There are volunteer opportunities for people of every age, profession, and physical ability.
If you like the outdoors, consider doing some volunteer work to help clean up parks. Are you an animal lover? Offer to walk dogs at an animal shelter a few times a month, or maybe help to campaign for the World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, etc. Are you a super-busy professional? Consider donating an hour or so a month to help mentor young people who wish to follow in your footsteps. Are you crafty? You can use up spare yarn by knitting or crocheting warm hats, scarves, and mittens for those in need, like women and children in shelters, or even overseas orphans and refugees. Trust that there’s charity work that’s perfectly suited for you out there, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a dramatic difference in another’s life.
We all get frustrated and upset on occasion, but the energy that we put out into the universe tends to have a domino effect: the person you yelled at in traffic might take their frustrations out on a barista, who’ll then go home and yell at her kids because she’s had a bad day, and the kids will fight with one another because they don’t know how to handle the negativity that’s been forced upon them. On and on it goes, with the web of hostility growing larger and larger as it sweeps through the population.
If you find yourself irritated or frustrated by a situation, take a step back and really consider what’s going on. Is this an opportunity for you to be more patient? What can you learn from this situation? If you change your tone and be more compassionate with the others involved, can you achieve a more positive outcome?
In addition to reacting positively to upsetting circumstances, we can also take the initiative to pour some good into the world. Practicing random acts of kindness also creates a domino effect, as others appreciate what was done for them and then decide to do good in turn. Paying for someone else’s coffee in a drive-through will instantly brighten their day, and there’s more than a 90% chance that they’ll pay for the person behind them in turn, and so on. This video illustrates that concept rather perfectly, actually.
The actions mentioned above don’t take a great deal of effort to do, but if each and every person on the planet implemented just a few of them, we could see real change happenfor the betterment of all on this gorgeous planet.
Why bother writing anything if there isn’t a formidable educator standing over us? Writing: Change Yourself, Change the WorldFeatured photo credit: Yasin Hassan - ياسين حسنvia Flickr