Where to Buy Sustainable: My Favs on Etsy

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Sustainability can get really complicated. It’s pretty much impossible for anything to truly be “sustainable” in our current society. If you think about anything for long enough, you’ll find some part of it that’s unsustainable. But some things are more parts sustainable than others.

Living will require buying some things. And while I’m a huge fan of minimalism, I also do believe it’s important to treat yourself and enjoy life. Even though sustainable products may cost more, we can focus on buying less, but better quality.

One of my favourite ways to do that is by shopping on Etsy. For skincare, hair, and beauty products, I love finding zero waste items made with natural ingredients. Etsy is also a great place to shop for zero waste swaps.

Let’s talk about

  • What is Etsy and why is it sustainable?
  • How to tell if a seller on Etsy is sustainable
  • Why even buy sustainable products?
  • My favourite categories to shop on Etsy

Is Shopping on Etsy Sustainable?

If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s an online marketplace that connects small businesses and craft makers to a global customer base. There are a lot of sustainability reasons to support small businesses, but what about the environmental impacts of shipping?

Etsy offsets the carbon emissions of all shipping with a verified partner. And while there are problems with offsets, when compared to all the emissions from the supply chain of a multinational company, shipping the product from the seller to you in most cases simply does not compare.

While Etsy does not control the functions of it’s sellers, they’re dedicated to improving sustainability. Their operations use zero-waste practices and run on renewable energy, including the online marketplace. They also work to manage and improve their social impact and economic impact to support equitable access to opportunities and empower entrepreneurs.

The Etsy marketplace supports small sellers to reach a global audience, while setting a standard for corporate social and environmental responsibility. In addition, many shops implement their own sustainability policies. These are often described in the shop’s description, in it’s policies, or in the item description.

How to Tell if a Seller is Sustainable

The Etsy marketplace runs on renewable electricity, uses zero-waste practices in the operations, and offsets the emissions from shipping. What about the sellers? The answer will depend on the shop you’re looking at, and the item.

What Makes a Shop Sustainable?

When you’re looking at an item, you can go to the page of shop that sells it to find out more information. Here is a list of what to look for in an Etsy store you’re considering buying from:

  • Where is the shop located? Sometimes you can find a similar item from a shop that is closer to you, in which case it does not need to be shipped as far.
  • What are there shipping policies? Do they use reused cardboard, or compostable packaging
  • Do they have zero-waste practices in their operations?
  • Do they donate money or products?
  • How are ingredients and materials sourced?
  • Are the items handmade, or made by workers with fair wages?

What Makes a Product Sustainable?

There are also qualities that make a product more sustainable than others. Here’s a non-inclusive list of what may make a product more environmentally friendly than another:

  • Made with reclaimed or recycled materials
  • Made with natural, organic, cruelty-free ingredients
  • Reusable or minimal packaging
  • Durable and made-to-last
  • Meant to replace a single-use item
  • Sustainably-sourced materials
  • Repairable
  • Handmade in small-batches

Why Buy Sustainable?

“Sustainable products” have a reputation for being expensive, and this is not without merit. Compared to other items available today, they often are! Why is this, and why would anyone buy the sustainable version?

Why are Sustainable Products More Expensive?

Fair Labour, Fair Wages

Materials produced for, and the manufacturing of sustainable products required the labour of workers. Paying a fair wage to workers, providing benefits and time-off increase the cost of materials, and the final product. However, it’s also important to note that a higher cost does not always mean steps were not cut.

Skipping these steps can keep prices low. When companies focus on cutting costs without considering sustainability, factories are forced to remain competitive by lowering their labour standards.

Small Scale

Mass production can decrease costs due to economies of scale, but may also result in decreased quality and increased waste. It is also partly responsible for the consumer mindset shift towards the prevalent “throw-away culture” we live in.

Creators on Etsy make their products on a much smaller scale than multinational corporations. More time is spent ensuring the quality of each item and using materials as efficiently as possible.

Quality Ingredients, Quality Products

The items in Etsy shops are crafted by makers who are passionate about their business. They don’t want to cut costs; they want to make the best product for their customer. This means high-quality ingredients and items made-to-last.

My Favourite Categories to Shop on Etsy

Skincare and Beauty Products

I love Etsy for natural skincare and beauty products. As someone with sensitive skin, natural ingredients that won’t be irritating is really important. There are plenty of zero-waste and vegan options as well.

Hair Care Products

From package-free shampoo and conditioner bars to hair oils and masks, I love Etsy for hair care products.

Zero Waste Bathroom

Take care of your hygiene without the plastic! Shop reusable, natural scrubbers and cloths, and a wide-range of dental products.

Zero Waste Kitchen

From grocery shopping and snacks-on-the-go to storing food and washing dishes, there’s a zero waste swap for that. Here are some of my favourites:

Final Thoughts

Even though it’s impossible to buy something perfectly sustainable, it feels good knowing your supporting someone who is trying to make a difference with their business.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide for 2020

Christmas in 2020 is going to look a lot different than any Christmas we’ve seen before; from where we do our shopping to how we celebrate, there’s a lot of change coming. Things are moving online as we adapt to a new normal.

Let’s use this opportunity to have a green Christmas! I’ve put together this Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide to help you find the perfect present for your loved ones. I’ve included links for many of the gift ideas since most of us may not have the opportunity to do any in-person shopping.

I’ve broken my Eco-Friendly Christmas Gift Guide for 2020 down into 3 categories:

  • reusable items,
  • food and drinks, and
  • experiences. 

Reusable items will help save money in the long-run while also introducing the recipient to the world of sustainability. Food and drink items make great gifts for those stuck at home. Experiences are a popular gift-alternative and I’ve found some great online options.

Something to Use (and Reuse!)

Send your loved one down the path of low impact living by showing them the convenience of reusables that are staples for sustainability. Your gift will continue to bring value every time it’s used, and will help the recipient save money in the long run.

Reusable Napkins and Handkerchiefs

Reusable cloth towels, napkins, and handkerchiefs “replace” their single-use paper counterparts (I say “replace” because cloth is what our grandparents and great-grandparents were using long before single-use paper products.)

These not paper kitchen towels are from a shop located in the United Kingdom. They’re in a cute floral design, and there are other fabric options from this shop. For something more plain, I really like this 6 pack of unbleached cotton unpaper towels, from a shop in Ontario, Canada.

Some cloths are made extra soft for a luxurious-feeling handkerchief. The Pocket Rag has a corner sewn on it so it can be folded in to itself and keep your pocket clean. Or, pick up a set like these 8 organic cotton handkerchiefs.

Reusable Grocery, Bulk, and Produce Bags

The thin plastic bags stores offer for produce and bulk are one of the least recyclable plastics, making reusable bags a no-brainer.

Me Mother Earth in Nevada, United States offers plastic free shipping. They have organic cotton bulk bags and cotton mesh produce bags which are both available in packs of 3 or 6.

I think this grocery and produce bag set from My Eco Bag Store in the Ukraine is SO cute there’s no way you could forget to bring it to the store.

Net grocery bags, like these naturally dyed cotton expanding net bag from Canada are really popular right now. They can hold a lot of weight (this one holds up to 11 kg), and take up very little storage space when not being used, so they’re great for the person who always forgets their reusable grocery bags.

Reusable Silicone Zipper Bags

These silicone food storage bags come in packs of 3 and 6. They claim to be dishwasher safe and the shop, Me Mother Earth, uses plastic free shipping and is located in the United States. They also have a website where they sell a full range of zero waste lifestyle products and I also have a coupon code you can us to get 10% off (code: TENACIOUSTHINKER).

Beeswax Wraps (with Vegan Options!)

As far as zero-waste swaps go, wax wraps are one of my favourites! They replace most uses of plastic wraps and work so much better.

Prairie Minimalist in Canada sells a 3 pack beeswax food wraps (1 small, 1 medium, 1 large) or a 5 pack beeswax wraps (2 small, 2 medium, 1 large). And, if you’re shopping for multiple people (or really love wax wraps) they offer Four 3 Packs of beeswax wraps, which is 12 wraps for a great price!

If you’re shopping from closer to the UK, check out this 4 pack of beeswax wraps. From the US, this 3 pack of organic beeswax wraps is a great option.

If you prefer vegan options, there are wax wraps made with plant-based wax. La P’tite Fabrique is located in Quebec, Canada and sells a 3 pack of vegan wax wraps.

Eco Homemade GB, in the United Kingdom, also has a 3 pack of vegan wax wraps.

Something to Eat

Food gifts are always appreciated, and can be a great way to introduce someone to an eco friendly and ethical brand. Love-filled, homemade food also makes an excellent gift that is sustainable and can be made on a budget.

Organic and Fairtrade Brands

Coffee, tea, and chocolate; they’re some of life’s greatest pleasures, but too often come at the expense of ethics and sustainability. Purchasing from certified Fair Trade brands ensures you’re supporting farmers and communities in the global south who produce our little luxuries.

Fairtrade Coffees

Fairtrade Chocolates

Fairtrade Teas

Homemade Treats

If you’ve got a little talent in the kitchen, you may consider gifting some home baked goods or prepped freezer meals. Cooking and baking from scratch pretty much has a lower impact than shopping. Plus, you ensure the quality of ingredients going in.

Unique Flavours

Local artisans and small brands craft smaller batches and experiment with interesting combinations; the results are tasty and unique and make great gifts.

Enjoy Worthy is based in Calgary, Canada. They have some really unique jam flavours like  their Earl Gray lavender peach jam and their strawberry cardamom jam. They also have salsas like their hot pineapple turmeric salsa.

Wildcraft Mustards Organic makes a handful of unique flavours and the whole mustard seeds lend an interesting texture. For condiments, I also like Inglehoffer mustards, which can be bought in some stores. They make a bunch of delicious gourmet flavours.

Latasha’s Kitchen Store Indian and Southeast Asian flavoured sauces and pastes made in Australia. These are a quick way to make a tasty meal. For more spice, check out a gourmet hot sauce like the one’s from Sriracha Revolver that come in unique flavours such as mango, ginger avocado, cilantro lime, and tequila beet.

Consider getting a gift set so they can try multiple flavours; such as this assortment of 4 Greek sea salts with herbs. This barbeque set comes with 2 vegan BBQ sauces and 2 salt-free spice mixes. And check out this set of 4 natural peanut butters in gourmet flavours! They also have the same set with mini jars.

Something to Do

Gifting experiences is probably not a novel idea at this point, but it is still a good option for environmentally friendly gifts.

Discover Something New

Airbnb launched their online experiences, which has multitudes of unique and diverse live experiences. They have everything from culture walks and farm visits to game nights and theater. You can buy an Airbnb gift card if you’re in the United States.

Another fun way to share the gift of discovery is an Audible membership; audiobooks are great for days when you’re too tired to focus on reading, and for people who aren’t big readers! An Audible membership comes with access to all the Audible Original podcasts.

Eat Local

Take-out or delivery can be great option on “lazy” days. A voucher for an online delivery service like UberEats or DoorDash provides multiple restaurant options.

You could also buy a gift card to a local restaurant. Not only does this support your community but it creates an opportunity for the recipient to try somewhere new.

Learn a New Skill

Give the gift of learning with a giftcard or membership for a service such as Skillshare or Creativelive.  (If you want to check it out first, you can use my Skillshare link to get your first 2 months free.)

Airbnb’s Online Experiences has some unique classes from people all over the world. These would be a fun experience to do together and would make a great a gift for a couple.

Relax and Unwind

You can gift a home spa day by making a gift basket of body and skin products in favourite scents. Include a movie (or a gift card for a streaming service) and some sweet treats and it’s perfect.

If that’s all a bit daunting, go ahead with already curated gift sets to get great value:

Some great options include this 5 pack of vegan bath bombs or this Christmas scent gift pack that include soap, lip balm, and soy candle. This natural skin products gift set includes a body balm, lip balm, bath salts, and natural soap and was made in Canada.

Final Thoughts

I hope this helped you find the perfect gift or at least gave you some ideas! If you want even more inspiration, check out some of my favourite sustaianble Etsy shops.

What is Minimalism? Start with 4 Tips.

One topic that comes up often in conversations of sustainability and wellness is minimalism. Not minimalism as the art or interior design style, but minimalism applied as a lifestyle. What does that look like and how does it apply to topics such as sustainability and wellness?

Minimalism as a lifestyle means different things to different people. But there are some core values we can narrow it down to. In this way, minimalism is a tool for simplifying your life, something that many of us can benefit from.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • What is minimalism?
  • What minimalism is not.
  • What are some possible downsides of minimalism?
  • What are the benefits of minimalism?
  • How do you start to implement minimalism in your lifestyle?

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism is a tool people use to simplify their lives. What your simple life looks like depends on you, but there are some core values the minimalism follows. One of the biggest is having purpose and intention in life.

When we are distracted by life’s excesses, we miss out on time to focus on what matters to us. Minimalism urges us to examine what is in our lives, and discard what is no longer serving us or no longer brings us value.

Minimalists often talk about possessions, and only owning what serves purpose or brings value. This is part of minimalism, but only focusing on this aspect can negatively impact the movement as it ignores other dimensions.

In addition to minimizing our possessions in order to focus on what is important, minimalism also urges applying this to the activities that consume our time, the media we consume, and the thoughts we linger on.

Minimalism is also useful in breaking free from the consumerist cycle our modern society perpetuates. Deeply considering purchases and reducing what we bring into our lives helps us achieve financial independence which leaves more time for things we love outside of work. Practicing minimalism also helps our sustainability efforts.

What is Not Minimalism?

Some things often get mistaken for minimalism, when they’re really just the preferences of some minimalists. Kind of like how different people like different flavours of chips. Unfortunately, these misconceptions may turn people off from minimalism and make it seem like an unachievable ideal.

Minimalism is not stark, barren white walls or wearing the same outfit everyday. While it’s totally okay to like this aesthetic, it’s not a necessary component of minimalism.

Minimalism is not owning nothing, or only owning x number of possessions. While some people may want to practice extreme minimalism for their own reasons, and a blogger quantifying their possessions can make an inspiring read, it’s not at all a requirement.

Minimalism is not having no hobbies or collections. Many minimalists have hobbies that require equipment or have a dedicated book or plant collection. In fact, minimalism gives you more time to engage in hobbies and appreciate your collections.

Minimalism is not only for the young and single. You can own a house and have kids and still be a minimalist.

Minimalism is not simply being frugal. Buying less will result in saving money, but that’s not the original intent. Additionally, when minimalists do make purchases they often opt for higher quality items, which, while they will last longer, often also come with a higher price tag.

What are the Downsides of Minimalism?

Some people adopt a minimalist lifestyle and then decide it’s not for them. Although they still found the benefits, there were negatives that outweighed them. I think many of these “ex-minimalists” still use some principles of minimalism in their lives. It’s a matter of picking and choosing what supports your goals in life.

One issue with minimalism has to do with storing food in a smaller space. Generally, minimalism encourages minimizing the size of your home. The problem you run into with this is that a small kitchen and pantry doesn’t hold a lot of food.

This means having to go grocery shopping more often and not being able to store groceries bought in bulk. For people who don’t live near a grocery store, this is a problem. Not having a lot of space also makes it difficult to buy in bulk to take advantage of savings.

I think you can have a bigger kitchen and still be a minimalist. If it simplifies your life, by allowing you to spend less time shopping and to save money, then I believe it’s still considered minimalism.

Another problem with the smaller living area minimalism encourages is not being able to entertain or have guests stay overnight. While some people living in tiny homes may be able to squeeze in 6+ people, it’s not ideal. If entertaining and providing a place to sleep for guests is important to you, a bigger space may better fit your values.

One issue that makes minimalism seem classist at times, is that while a box of spare parts and backup electronics may seem like clutter to some, for others it may be a tool to save money. If you won’t be able to afford a new computer if your current one dies, it may be necessary for you to have spares on hand.

While decluttering is often seen as the hallmark of minimalism, it can have downsides. It’s better to sell old stuff than to drop it off at a thrift store (both of which are better than sending it straight to the landfill). But selling stuff can be frustrating and time consuming, and you may not sell for the price you were looking for.

Additionally, some people often get swept up in decluttering and get rid of something that they then need to replace (at a steep cost) or give up things that may be irreplaceable.

So, How Do You Become a Minimalist?

I think it’s important to start with the knowledge that minimalism is a tool, not an end goal or destination. Minimalism is a journey, by embarking on it you’re essentially already a minimalist. You’re just an especially inexperienced minimalist.

Here are some steps you can take to start your minimalist journey off on the right foot:

  • Assess your current lifestyle; where your time and money goes
  • Determine what you value most in life
  • Declutter your physical and mental space
  • Ask the questions before buying anything
  • Learn about minimalism from other minimalists
  • Adapt the “minimalist lifestyle” to fit your values
  • Gradually implement minimalism into your lifestyle
  • Use your newfound free time doing what you love

Final Thoughts

Minimalism is a tool that can be adjusted to fit your needs. It helps you simplify your life in order to have more time to focus on your values and passions. There are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle, and most to all of the downsides can be dissolved by using only the parts of minimalism that suit you.

3 Steps for Improving Your Social Wellness

Social wellness is one dimension of our overall wellness; it’s domain is our relationships with other people.

From a quick glance, social wellness seems to be influenced by the outside world — the people we work, live, and interact with — but, in fact, good or bad social wellness comes from within us. With this information, we know that our social wellness can always be improved.

In exploring social wellness, we’ll look at:

  • What is social wellness?
  • Why is good social wellness important?
  • How do you cultivate social wellness?

What is Social Wellness?

Social wellness is concerned with our interpersonal relationships and social skills. The pursuit of social wellness involves building an identity and sense of self worth in order to build healthy, fruitful relationships with others.

Someone with good social wellness is able to manage their responsibilities and their relationships so that neither interferes with the other. If they’re in a romantic relationship, they balance it with their relationships with friends and family. They have a social support network they can turn to for help, and also feel comfortable with who they are as an individual.

Why is Social Wellness Important?

Someone who lacks a social support network, does not create new connections with people, or who has poor social skills may suffer from isolation. Social isolation can have severe mental and physical effects comparable to smoking cigarettes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Another benefit of social support networks is the different types of support they can provide. Emotional support in times of crisis helps with stress and anxiety. Your social support network may also provide instrumental support, such as physical acts, lending items, and gifts. They may also share information as a form of support.

When your social wellness improves, other aspects of your life improve, such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Self-esteem
  • Comfort in social settings
  • Emotional resilience
  • Assertive skills

How to Cultivate Social Wellness?

Improving your social wellness is different for everyone as we all have different starting points and different areas of weakness. We’ll look specifically at three areas:

  • building social skills,
  • maintaining existing relationships, and
  • creating new connections.

Social skills allow you to ask for what you need, communicate clearly, and understand others. Maintaining relationships is necessary for the health of the relationships and also because it leads to social interaction which prevents isolation. Creating new connections strengthens our social support network and may broaden our world view.

Building Social Skills

Social skills are how we communicate with, relate to and understand others. Good social skills allow us to communicate effectively and appropriately. Poor social skills may lead to conflicts, miscommunication, or an inability to express how we feel which can all deteriorate our relationships with others.

Before considering how we communicate with others, we must look at how we perceive ourselves. Our sense of self-worth will impact how we communicate with others. Exploring and understanding your values can help you surround yourself with like-minded people and set boundaries for what you are and are not comfortable with.

Open communication is necessary for both parties in a relationship to feel heard and understood. Communication goes both ways; you need active listening skills and empathy to provide emotional support for others and also assertive communication skills to stand up for your needs and boundaries.

Maintaining Relationships

Relationships need maintenance to remain strong and effective. Maintenance serves the additional purposes of further strengthening your relationships and facilitating social interaction. Maintaining relationships includes time spent and also how that time is spent.

Taking time to catch up with old friends and setting regular “dates” with friends, family, and your partner is an easy way to maintain relationships. Equally important is to ensure you don’t spread yourself too thin and burn out!

Part of valuing yourself and others is protecting yourself in your relationships. This includes setting healthy boundaries, asking for what you need, and leaving toxic or abusive relationships.

When conflicts occur (which they may), don’t jump to conclusions regarding others’ motives. During conflict, take responsibility for your actions and use assertive communication to express your needs and feelings.

When communicating with others, show appreciation both verbally and non verbally. Be honest, supportive, non-judgmental, and non-critical. Practice self-disclosure, that is, sharing your thoughts and feeling with others

Creating Connections

Beyond the benefit of expanding your social support network, creating new connections is a fun way to practice communication skills and to expand your worldview. Beyond school and work, here are some ideas for places to meet people with similar interests:

  • Volunteer for a cause you are passionate
  • Join a hobby group
  • Take a class
  • Visit the dog park
  • Join a gym or exercise group
  • Visit a community garden or park
  • Take part in neighborhood events
  • Join a music or theater group
  • Travel to new places

Final Thoughts

Socializing seems to come easy to some people; if it doesn’t come easily to you, don’t fret! Implementing the strategies and improving your weaker areas will improve your social wellness. Over time, social habits that were difficult will become second nature.

For people with mental health conditions, such as social anxiety, and for those with especially underdeveloped social skills, the route social wellness is much tougher. You may want to consider therapy, counselling, or social skills training.

I hope you take something away from this article, and please share what you do to cultivate social wellness. I’m sure we can all improve our communication skills and make the world a better place. And if you want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list to hear about new posts and get first access to special projects I’m working on.

Beginners Guide to the Zero Waste Movement (and 4 Zero Waste Newbie Mistakes to Avoid!)

Zero waste started as a set of design principles for creating products, services, and processes that minimize waste that is produced. These principles were adopted as a lifestyle by environmentally minded people who are now carrying zero waste to the mainstream spotlight.

As the zero waste movement has grown, it’s message has been somewhat diluted. As the lifestyle side of the movement has exploded, the onus on companies to reduce their waste is pushed aside. While individual actions are still useful, the importance of regulating industries can not be forgotten.

The core principles of zero waste may be buried beneath layers of individual responsibility and “minimal” aesthetics but they’re still present. Understanding the foundation of zero waste will help you avoid newbie mistakes and will help you determine what the most environmentally-conscious decision is.

In this article we’ll go over:

  • The principles of zero waste design
  • The background of the zero waste lifestyle movement
  • How to start your zero waste lifestyle journey
  • Zero waste beginner mistakes to avoid

Zero Waste Design Principles

You might not be an engineer creating a new product or planning a factory layout, but you are the engineer of your life! By deeply examining the principles at the core of zero waste, you’ll be able to make informed decisions when it comes to engineering your own day-to-day life.

Many of these principles are best applied at the start of the design process for a product, and for this reason it’s impossible in our current system to be perfectly zero waste. Nevertheless, you can still make better decisions.

The principles of zero waste are:

  • Preventing waste from the start
  • Using non-toxic materials
  • Durability and long lifespans
  • Ease of repair
  • Ease of disassembly
  • Using less materials
  • Using recycled materials
  • Closed-loop systems

Preventing waste from the start

Zero waste is focused on more than our household trash. Products we buy have a trail of waste from extraction of virgin materials, the manufacturing of these materials and then their eventual transportation. For companies, this means considering the waste produced at every stage of the product’s life.

There are still ways individuals can prevent waste from the start. Buying second-hand or from companies with sustainable-policies can minimize the waste involved in the pre-consumer phase. Additionally, your life can be organized in ways that will reduce the trash you create.

Use of non-toxic materials

When toxic materials are used in production, they increase the environmental impact of the product before it’s even being used. Further, toxic materials are bad for our health and are difficult, if not impossible, to dispose of safely. They’re also dangerous for the communities that live near the production factories and this is without mentioning the workers that labour in these factories.

Companies should use non-toxic materials. Individuals can be informed about toxic materials to avoid purchasing them, and should support government regulation of toxic materials.

Durable products with longer lifespans

Because of planned and perceived obsolescence, people are consuming more and more products with short lifespans designed for the landfill. By making a conscious effort to buy high quality, durable products and to maintain what we own, we reduce the amount we buy and thus the amount that we get rid of.

Most importantly, the onus is on companies to shift away from encouraging mindless consumption.

Easily repairable objects

Some products, particularly electronics, are so difficult to repair that it’s cheaper to replace them. This is incredibly wasteful, as many of these products will end up in a landfill. While this is largely an issue of design, individuals can compare ease of repair when choosing products to buy.

Ease of disassembly at end of life

Some products are difficult to recycle because they’re made of a variety of different materials that are hard to separate. Even if the individual materials can be recycled, the object must be designed to be easily disassembled.

This is primarily the responsibility of the company, but individuals should look for products that are designed to be disposed of responsibly.

Use of less materials

Minimizing materials may look like reduced packaging on products, smaller objects that still perform their function, or items with multiples uses. When choosing between two products, individuals can compare the packaging, size, and number of (useful) functions.

Use of recycled materials

Products that use recycled materials are often better than ones that are new. But, the processing required for recycling materials can be high, and the percentage of materials in the object which are recycled may be low, so don’t buy something solely because it’s made with recycled materials without considering the other principles.

Closed-loop systems

Currently, we live in a linear system where materials are extracted, processed, manufactured into products, which are sold and ultimately designed to end up in a landfill. The zero waste lifestyle encourages people to keep what they have in use.

Products that are meant to be reclaimed at the end of their lives help prevent waste being sent to landfills. Until the system in which we live is completely overhauled, it’s impossible for individuals to be completely zero waste.

A History of the Zero Waste Movement

The earliest use of the term zero waste was by chemist Paul Palmer in the 1970s. His company, Zero Waste Solutions was started in 1974 to divert laboratory chemicals from going to waste. Through the 80s and 90s, the theory and principles of zero waste continued to be developed for industrial processes.

As awareness of the problems with overconsumption and waste disposal grew during the end of the 20th century, more companies and businesses became interested in applying zero waste principles. Consulting agencies such as Zero Waste Solutions, founded in 2002 by Shavila Singh, sprung up to help other companies transform their business practices.

It wasn’t until 2009, when Bea Johnson decided to apply zero waste design principles to her life, that the zero waste lifestyle took off. She had decided to share her journey with the world through her blog and she was featured in the New York Times by 2010.

In 2013 she published her book, zero waste home. Bea Johnson’s journey inspired other eco-activists, bloggers, to apply zero waste principles to their lifestyles. She also popularized the 5 R’s as an alternative to the 3 R’s.

Lauren Singer from New York city started her blog, Trash is for Tossers, after being inspired by Bea. She started her company, Package Free Shop, to provide products that help people reduce their waste.

Another zero waste blogger, Kathryn Kellogg, originally started her journey after learning about the health effects of exposure to toxins present in many products. She’s since written her book, 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, to help other people on their journeys!

While the zero waste lifestyle movement has critics, it has influenced package free stores, innovative reusable products, and has brought sustainability to the forefront of consumers’ minds.

How to Start Your Own Zero Waste Journey

Stop buying things!

The first step of starting your zero waste journey is boring, but essential. Don’t rush out and buy all the zero waste swaps the eco-influencers are pushing. In fact, don’t buy anything at all!

Whether you do 30 days, 2 months, or a year of not spending, use this time to reevaluate what you think you know. Most of us have been subconsciously taught bad consumer habits and the first step of your zero waste journey is unlearning these. And on that note…

Read, listen, and learn

There is so much to learn about sustainability and knowledge is an incredibly powerful tool; not only can we make the best decisions available to us, we can also express the importance to others.

I have a list of eco-focused bloggers, YouTubers, and websites that I continually update. It’s a good place to start if you want to educate yourself further with regards to sustainability.

Use what you have

Before you buy package-free shampoo bars or compostable bamboo toothbrushes, use what you already have. Finish the bottle of shampoo and use your plastic toothbrush until you need to replace it. Not only will you save money, you’ll also avoid impulsive buys.

Swap disposables for reusables (or do without!)

Make a list of all the disposable and single-use products you currently use. Then, find alternative reusable products, or see if you can do without. For any reusable products you decide to buy, try to buy them as you need them; this helps ensure you will actually use the reusable version once you have it. Reducing the amount of single use items gradually is key here.

Shop consciously

When your no-spend period is over (and for essentials like groceries), try to consider the environmental impact of what you’re buying. Living in North America means you’ll also have to consider where your food is coming from. Fresh local food is not always an option especially if you live somewhere up north. A large part of this is considering the zero waste principles listed above.

Follow the 6 R’s

They’re a simple guide for many decisions: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, rot, recycle. That is.. refuse stuff you don’t want or need, reduce your consumption and waste production, reuse (or repurpose) what you have, repair broken items instead of replacing, let food waste rot (ie. compost), and, as a last resort, recycle what you can.

Be patient with yourself

It’s not possible for anyone to be entirely zero waste. But if you’re hard on yourself, you’ll only feel discouraged. Be patient during your zero waste journey, and when you look at other zero wasters, remember that many of them have been on their journey for years.

Zero Waste Beginner Mistakes to Avoid

When first introduced to the world of zero waste swaps and eco friendly products, the nuanced details of zero waste often fly over our heads. Because of this, there are some common mistakes that zero waste beginners often make.

Replacing all your stuff

When you first see zero waste pros on Instagram, it can be really tempting to go out and buy every zero waste swap. Not only is this really expensive, but you likely already have things at home you can use.

Buying reusables you won’t use

Just because there’s a reusable version of something, doesn’t mean you will use it. Many zero waste YouTubers have made videos about the zero waste swaps they regret buying. A simple way to avoid impulsive purchases is to write it down and wait a set amount of time.

Trying to do everything at once

If you try to overhaul your entire lifestyle, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and burnout. The most sustainable changes are the ones that are personally sustainable. Start small, and start in one place.

Worrying about the zero in zero waste

Some people (especially critics of the movement) get hung up on the zero of zero waste; realistically, because of the system we live in it is impossible for anyone to be completely zero waste. Even common zero waste habits, such as shopping in bulk stores and buying fresh, package free produce, can be inaccessible to some people.

What matters most is trying your best (and trying to influence system change through voting, joining grassroots movements, and attending protests).

Final Thoughts

Zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive and elitist; in fact, it shouldn’t be! It’s infinitely better for everyone to implement a little bit of zero waste into their lives than for a few people to be perfectly zero waste.

What zero waste newbie mistakes did you make? Let me know. Subscribe to learn more about wellness and sustainability.

20 Habits for Great Environmental Wellness

We’ve been exploring the dimensions of wellness and how we can improve them. Environmental wellness refers to our personal environment and the health of the planet.

At first glance, environmental wellness appears unique. It seems to emphasize the outside world, as opposed to the internal changes the other dimensions prioritize. But if we examine how to improve our environmental wellness, we’ll see otherwise.

While environmental wellness is impacted by the world around us, it is improved by changes we make in ourselves. The goal of environmental wellness isn’t to solve the climate crisis; that’s too big a demand for an individual.

Instead, we change our mindset and behaviors, to have a healthier relationship with the planet, our personal environment, and ourselves.

In this post we’ll look at:

  • What is environmental wellness?
  • What are some ways we can minimize our impact on the planet?
  • What are some actions we can take to make our personal environment a place where we can flourish?

What is Environmental Wellness?

More often than not, environmental wellness is spoken of with a focus on the planet. Learning to live sustainably is a huge part of taking care of the environment and building a relationship with nature, but there’s also much more to environmental wellness than taking care of the Earth.

Environmental wellness also includes our personal environment; where we live, work, and play. When these places are safe and healthy we thrive, and the opposite is true as well. A poor personal environment can negatively affect our health well-being.

In this article, I’ll give tips for improving your environmental wellness. This includes ways to help the planet, and ways to make your personal environment a place where you can flourish.

10 Tips for Minimizing your Impact on the Planet

Individual actions won’t change the massive environmental damage caused by agriculture and industry. But the mindset of caring for the planet and conserving resources helps connect us to higher purpose, and over time the collective shift in society will shift industries.

1. Conserve Energy

A lot of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels, so we want to use as little as possible. Spend some time thinking mindfully about ways you can reduce your energy use. Some common ways of conserving energy are:

  • Unplug electronics that are not in use,
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room
  • Make use of natural light
  • Minimize the use of appliances (air conditioner, dishwasher, washer and dryer)
  • Ensure your home is properly insulated

For more reading, check out these guides from Kathryn at Going Zero Waste on conserving energy in the kitchen and in the bathroom.

2. Walk, Cycle, Use Public Transportation, or Carpool

Cars create emissions and use fossil fuels. By using alternative modes of transportation when we can, we reduce the emissions we’re responsible for. These tips can also save you money and can be healthy.

3. Follow the Rs

By going beyond the 3 Rs we learned in school, we can ensure we’re making environmentally responsible decisions. Followed in order, we can reduce waste produced and sent to the landfill.

4. Shop for In-Season Locally Grown Produce

Produce that is in-season and grown locally has less of an environmental impact as food grown elsewhere has to be transported. If you have access to fresh produce near you, take advantage of foods that are in-season; not only is it better for the planet, it will likely be cheaper and fresher.

5. Spend Time Outside

Getting in touch with nature is a fun and easy way to strengthen your connection to the planet. Having a connection with nature strengthens your environmental wellness and is also good for your mental and physical wellness.

6. Phase Out Single-Use Products

Single use products are incredibly wasteful and usually have a reusable counterpart. Even though single-use products are often cheaper and more convenient, their environmental impacts are expensive to the planet and the reusable version will save you money in the long run.

Here are 3 reusable swaps you can DIY.

7. Use Less Water

Clean, fresh water is a limited resource. Conserving water is more than short showers and not running the tap; most items and foods require water to be produced. You can use an online tool to calculate your water footprint and get ideas for how to reduce your water use.

Also, check out this awesome list Shelby put together on her blog of 55 Ways to Conserve Water.

8. Vote for Environmentally-Minded Politicians

Beyond federal elections, following and voting in municipal and provincial or state elections is incredibly important for protecting the planet. These are the governments that are most directly responsible for projects and decisions that affect the environment, so our elected representatives should have comprehensive environmental policies.

9. Support Sustainable Brands

Not everyone can afford or has access to sustainable brands, and there are still tons of other ways to minimize your impact. But, if you’re in a position to do so and you actually need the item, shopping from and supporting sustainable brands shows the industry what people want and can help spur change.

However, with increased demand for sustainable practices some brands are trying to get your business without actually doing anything for the environment. This practice is called greenwashing, and it’s something to look out for.

10. Knowledge and Awareness

Learning about sustainability is probably the most important thing you can do for the planet. By understanding the principles of sustainability you can make better choices and you share what you know with others.

10 Ways to Take Your Personal Space to the Next Level

Taking care of the planet is important for our future, but we also have to take care of ourselves. By cultivating a happy, healthy personal environment we set ourselves up for success.

11. Safety and Security

Take time to do a safety audit of your home: examine windows and locks for security, and test your alarms regularly. Not only will this give you peace of mind, it can save you and your loved ones in case of an emergency. Part of safety and security is being aware of toxic materials to avoid bringing into your space.

12. Physical Comfort

Having a place to relax can help you feel more rested and ready for your other activities. What this place looks like depends on the individual; a comfy chair or couch, or simply a mat on the floor. What matters most is that it works for you.

13. Pleasing to the Senses

Taking time to decorate your personal environment with things you like, such as pictures, colours, scents, and sounds, can make your space somewhere you enjoy spending time. You might be limited by money, or because your space is shared, but you can start by thinking small and creatively.

14. Adequate Lighting

Eye strain can cause headaches and tension, and over time may lead to poorer eyesight. Ensuring your personal space as enough lighting is essential. Natural light is ideal if possible, but even simply adding a lamp for reading can help.

15. Bring Some Nature Inside

Houseplants can help filter the air, but more importantly they’re nice to look at and bring a sense of nature inside when you may otherwise be stuck indoors.

16. Minimize Noise

The world is a lot noisier than it used to be. Background noise is not only distracting, but can also lead to headaches, tension, and irritability. You can reduce background noise in your house by unplugging buzzing electronics and setting your phone ringtone to silent.

When possible, avoid noisy areas (near train tracks, highways) and if you’re a homeowner, strategically planting trees around your house can help reduce the noise from the environment. Insulating walls and windows and installing heavy, noise-blocking curtains can also help.

17. Separation

Especially for those with a smaller personal environment, having separate areas for sleeping, eating, working, and relaxing creates needed distinction for your brain. Using your personal environment creatively to create separation can help your brain shift gears when it’s time to focus on an activity.

18. Be Conscious of the Vibes and People in your Space

By bringing mostly positive thoughts, vibes, experiences, and people into your personal space you create an atmosphere that is conducive to positivity.

19. Engage with your Community

Find and take part in local, community activities. Not only will it improve your sense of community, you’ll get to know your area and neighbors which can make your personal environment feel safer.

20. Declutter

Often, we have too much stuff in our space that isn’t bringing us value. You’ve likely heard the saying, “cluttered desk, cluttered mind” and it’s true. Removing distractions and clutter that creates stress will make your personal environment more effective.

When you declutter, do so mindfully; don’t just send everything to the landfill. An easy way to do this is to follow a zero-waste decluttering technique like this 10 in 15 challenge.

Final Thoughts

Not everyone is privileged to have the time, space, and money to create the perfect Instagram-worthy personal environment. And that’s okay! You don’t need to compare yourself to others, and you don’t need to drop hundreds to have a space that works for you.

Take what you can from this list and do what is in your power to change. Leave the rest and don’t stress; It’s not worth your time. Think creatively and be flexible.

Let me know what you do to live sustainably and create a healthy, positive environment.

Everything You Should Know About Mindfulness

You’ve probably heard somewhere that you should start meditating or practice mindfulness. I’m going to tell you that as well, but why? What exactly is mindfulness and why is it so good for us? How does it work, and how do we get started?

Mindfulness, the way we understand it today, has been sneaking its way into the public sphere since it was first developed in the 1970s. In the 2010s, mindfulness finally went mainstream and it’s been blowing up on apps, books, and websites.

Mindfulness is closely related to our wellness journey in that it supports and creates a strong foundation for mental and physical health.

Many of the ideas behind mindfulness predate their modern applications. The practice of mindfulness that is growing in popularity today has roots in Buddhist and Zen meditation.

The founder of the American wellness movement, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, was influenced by Buddhist philosophy when he developed his 8-week program: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR.

This program is the oldest mindfulness-based intervention and has influenced many others. It is used as the standard in most psychological mindfulness research, which has found many exciting benefits of its practice. Modern technologies for imaging the brain have allowed neuroscientists the opportunity to begin exploring how mindfulness affects specific areas.

The best part of mindfulness is that anyone can learn to practice and strengthen it. I’ll explore some formal and informal practices at the end of this article.

In all, we’ll look at:

  • What is the meaning and history of mindfulness?
  • What are the benefits of a mindfulness practice?
  • How does mindfulness work to produce these benefits?
  • What are some ways of practicing mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is commonly defined as a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of the present, cultivated without judgment. It is derived from sati, which is commonly understood to mean attention in Buddhist texts. The term mindfulness was first used in 1881, in a translation of Buddhist texts by T.W. Rhys Davids, an English scholar.

Mindfulness is a purposeful moment-to-moment awareness of the present, cultivated without judgment.

Rhys Davids’ decision to translate sati as mindfulness, instead of attention, has played a key role in the evolution of mindfulness over the past 140 years. Mindfulness, as it is used today, strays from the Buddhist idea of sati in a number of ways.

Mindfulness as we understand it today is based on the Mindfulness-based stress reduction program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. We’ll look at some of the foundations for MBSR to get a full picture of mindfulness.

Eric Harrison, a mindfulness and meditation teacher, has translated the Buddhist texts since Rhys Davids and explores what Buddhism meant by sati. By understanding sati and how it differs from how mindfulness is often taught today, we can enrich our mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness in the 21st Century

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is often considered the founder of the American wellness movement, combined Buddhist, Zen, and vipassana meditation techniques with modern cognitive-behavioral psychology to create his secular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

MBSR was designed to help regular people implement mindfulness in their daily lives. The goal is to help improve a variety of life issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and insomnia.

Some techniques and ideas taught in MBSR, and other mindfulness programs:

  • Mindful awareness of internal emotions, thoughts, and feeling
  • Mindful awareness of external senses and events
  • Mindful awareness of the interactions between internal and external aspects
  • Non-judgemental curiosity
  • Acceptance of natural pain, loss, and change
  • Bringing attention to the present

MBSR uses formal techniques such as breath awareness, body scan, and various forms of meditation. It also teaches informal techniques; ways to practice mindfulness in daily activities.

Mindfulness in Buddhism: The Definition of Sati

Through analysis of the meaning of sati, we can understand the original Buddhist teachings that influenced our modern mindfulness practice.

Sati refers to sustained attention, that is, holding an object in one’s mind and resisting outside temptations. This correlates to the mindful practice of focusing on present sensations and redirecting the mind when it wanders.

Sati is often combined with sampajanna, which means evaluation and judgment. This seems to contradict the definition of “non-judgmental awareness.”

Sati can also be divided into samma-sati, meaning “right attention”, and miccha-sati, which means “wrong attention”. That is, the Buddha differentiated between good and bad ideas to pay attention to.

The Buddha taught mindfulness in 4 contexts:

  • body,
  • emotion,
  • state of mind,
  • and thoughts.

Body: The Buddha teaches meditation focusing on the breath. Paying attention to bodily senses, and being mindful during daily activities is also important to the practice of mindfulness. The combination of mindful meditation and mindfulness in daily activities strengthens your attention.

Emotion: The Buddha taught us to explore and be mindful of the underlying moods and emotions associated with events and objects.

State of mind: Buddhism lists 5 hindrances, negative states of mind, which should be watched for and removed when found. In order to avoid their arising in the future, one must explore what leads to its arising. The 7 factors of enlightenment are states of mind deemed good and are to be cultivated and strengthened.

Thoughts: The Buddhist practice involves exploring what makes up you: your body, perceptions, feelings, action tendencies, and consciousness.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

Mindfulness research has exploded in recent decades along with advances in brain imaging technology. These are some of the benefits researchers have found in those who practice mindfulness.

Mental Health Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice

Practicing mindfulness improves the quality of attention, by improving one’s stability, control, and efficacy. It has been found to boost empathy and compassion, which can positively influence interpersonal behavior and may help with job-related burnout suffered by healthcare practitioners.

A mindfulness practice can help those suffering from some mental health problems. It’s been found helpful for preventing relapse from depression and the treatment of anxiety and PTSD. Studies have found evidence that it could even be comparable to the effects of antidepressants in treating depression.

Physical Health Benefits of a Mindfulness Practice

MBSR has been used to help sufferers of chronic pain reduce symptoms and has been found effective for treating insomnia. Practicing mindfulness may also boost the immune system and the brain.

Additionally, since mindfulness can reduce the intensity and duration of stress, it prevents many of the negative effects of long-term stress on the mind and body.

How Does Mindfulness Work?

The scientific study of how mindfulness works on the brain is still developing, but there are some possible ideas:

One idea is that by practicing mindfulness, you strengthen the ability to pull away from negative thought patterns and focus on better ones. This eliminates stress from ruminating over problems and can also help you make healthier choices in reaction to situations.

With advances in technology, neuroscientists are able to look at the brain of long-term meditators, and also compare the brains of patients before and after starting a mindfulness practice.

Studies have found evidence of growth in the gray matter of brain areas associated with attentional regulation, working memory, affective regulation, and impulsivity. Other studies have found decreased activity in the amygdala (emotions) and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

How to Practice Mindfulness

Now that we know all the great benefits of mindfulness, how do we incorporate it into our lives as a practice? A combination of formal and informal exercises, using techniques that work best for you, will form the basis of your mindfulness practice.

Formal Practice: Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is probably the best-known way to practice mindfulness. And sitting meditation is the most commonly seen way to meditate. However, meditation does not need to be seated.

You can do standing, walking, or moving meditation. You can do a seated meditation in a chair instead of on the floor. You can even meditate lying down (although it’s a quick way to put yourself to sleep).

When you’re meditating for the first couple of times, it may be helpful to do a guided meditation. This is as simple as listening to a recorded guide while you meditate.

Another type of meditation is Loving-Kindness Meditation. It’s believed to increase empathy and compassion. Also, it’s super wholesome and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

By trying different ways of meditating, you can be sure to find the one that works best for you.

Informal Practice: Mindfulness Breaks

It can be hard to find the time and space to meditate, especially when out or intense situations. This is where these mini mindfulness-breaks come in handy.

Informal mindfulness practices are often meant to be done in a shorter period of time and can be done anywhere. Some are meant to be done during certain activities, while others can be done as a way of centering and focusing your mind.

Informal mindfulness practices include:

Final Thoughts

The benefits of mindfulness speak for themselves, but starting a daily mindfulness practice is quite easy. So try out some of the techniques, and see what works for you!

Let me know what your mindfulness practice looks like by sending me an email or a DM on Instagram. And if you want to learn more about wellness, subscribe to my email list to be the first to know what’s new.

15 Habits for Emotional Wellness

If you’ve read my introduction to wellness, then you’ve heard of the concept of emotional wellness. Even if you haven’t, you’ve most likely had a bad experience linked to your own or someone else’s poor emotional wellness.

Emotional wellness is the dimension of wellness concerned with our emotions. Specifically, it includes our awareness of our feelings and their physical signs, the ability to acknowledge and accept our emotions, our capacity to appropriately express strong emotions, and our coping strategies.

Someone with poor emotional wellness may spend hours agonizing over natural emotions such as envy or anger. They may lash out when irritable, regardless of the true source of their irritation. A society full of people who are not in tune with their emotions would not function very well.

As I’ve said before, the best way to change our behavior is to create habits. Our brains learn from repeated actions; we can take advantage of this by training our minds with activities that improve our emotional wellness.

Unmanaged stress can lead to overwhelming negative emotions. Accordingly, habits that reduce stress can help your emotional wellness. We’ll also discuss habits more specific to the unique aspects of emotions.

Simple Stress-Busting Habits

  1. A balanced diet
  2. Adequate sleep
  3. Exercise

Stress negatively impacts our relationships, performance, and physical and mental health. These negative effects can lead to events and issues that trigger strong negative emotions that challenge our wellness. Therefore one of the best ways to help your emotional wellness is by developing habits that reduce stress.

Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising can all reduce stress from a physiological level. And, because these are (usually) things you can control, you create a feeling of empowerment that follows as you go about the rest of your life.

If you want to start exercising, check out my post about common fitness goals and how to achieve them.

Many of the other habits I talk about below also help reduce stress although that’s not their primary purpose.

Habits to Cultivate Self-Awareness

  1. Self-compassion
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Listening to your body

Self-awareness, the ability to recognize emotions and signs of stress, is the foundation for emotional wellness. This skill can be built through different activities; what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.

Making a habit of treating yourself with compassion can build the confidence required to explore your emotions. A daily mindfulness practice strengthens your mind and can help you recognize strong emotions in the moment. Developing a custom of taking time to listen to what your body is telling you can assist in noticing the beginnings of stress.

Habits to Facilitate Emotional agility

  1. Failure as a learning opportunity
  2. Gratitude
  3. Optimism

Emotional agility refers to the ability to move on after setbacks and failures. A sign of poor emotional wellness is being dragged down and discouraged for weeks and months after a setback. An emotionally agile person is not discouraged by failure; they see it as a learning opportunity.

This positive outlook is an essential custom for the emotionally agile person. Additionally, creating habits around practicing gratitude and cultivating optimism can raise your level of emotional agility over time.

Habits to Support Self-Acceptance

  1. Neutrally label emotions
  2. Explore causes
  3. Accept what you cannot change

Self-acceptance allows you to release any guilt or shame you may have. The opposite is to bury and repress memories; which is not a great way to deal with emotions long-term.

When encountering emotions, there are three actions you can do, in succession, to help regulate your feelings. First, identify and label your emotions, neutrally. The last part is essential as it doesn’t help to beat yourself up about your feelings; they’re a natural reaction.

Second is to identify the causes of your emotions (and if they’re really justified). Again, this should be done in a neutral fashion while practicing self-compassion and understanding. Third, identify what you can and cannot change about the situation. Change what you can and accept the rest.

Habits for Coping With and Expressing Strong Emotions

  1. Practice mindfulness
  2. Learn relaxation techniques
  3. Journal

In the heat of strong emotions, it can be difficult to control what may be inappropriate behavior. By practicing coping skills while calm, and processing feelings after the fact, you can better regulate emotions in the moment.

One of the best practices to help focus yourself while in the throes of emotion is mindfulness. Building habits around mindfulness, you develop the ability to avoid chaos by calmly acknowledging emotions in the moment.

Learning a variety of relaxation techniques, and practicing them in downtime, can help you calm down when you notice signs of stress or strong emotions. Some techniques are deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and focusing on your senses.

Making a habit of journaling can help you understand events and corresponding feelings. Approaching your emotions with curiosity and compassion will help you accept them in a healthy way.

Final Thoughts

Good emotional wellness can help you prevent issues caused by inappropriate expressions of emotion. I hope you can incorporate some of these habits into your life, to find emotional clarity and understanding.

Did I miss any habits? Let me know!

If you learned something new, subscribe to my email list to learn more about wellness with me every week!

Practice Gratitude to Support Your Wellness Journey

I’ve been exploring the dimensions of wellness, and the actions that support them. The importance of practicing gratitude has come up numerous times. Developing one’s sense of gratitude through daily practice is not only achievable but it can also benefit everyone.

To understand why gratitude is so beneficial we should understand what it means. To see how gratitude can support wellness, we’ll look at specific benefits of gratitude that research has found. Once we know all that, we can delve into a daily gratitude practice.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is the feeling or practice of being thankful for the good in life and the kind actions of others. It may arise spontaneously, some people are more prone to feeling grateful than others, and it can also be cultivated consciously.

Like happiness, gratitude can arise as a spontaneous feeling. This may be caused by gratitude serving as a useful emotion in our evolution; the same way fear evolved to protect us. Some people may have a trait of gratitude, and feel grateful more often. But waiting for this spontaneous feeling is not enough.

Instead, our aim is the practice or trait of gratitude. That is, instead of waiting for something to provoke gratitude within us, we cultivate it. Similar to other habits of wellness, we must actively focus our thoughts on practicing gratitude which means looking for the good in our lives, appreciating it, and being thankful.

Why Practice Gratitude?

Reasons for practicing gratitude used to be limited to anecdotal evidence and spirituality-based activities, but today there is a lot of research backing the claims of the benefits of practicing gratitude:

Physical Wellness and Gratitude

On average, people who practice gratitude have better physical health than those who don’t. This includes lower blood pressure, better sleep, and less stress. Additionally, they exercise more, experience fewer aches, and have a stronger immune system; these are all benefits on their own, but they also compound to further benefit your physical health.

Mental Wellness and Gratitude

Practicing gratitude also strengthens our mental health. In addition to less stress, the practice is correlated with increased happiness, improved optimism, stronger self-control, and a lower risk of anxiety and depression.

Social Wellness and Gratitude

People who cultivate gratitude have been found to feel less lonely, and more forgiving, compassionate, and generous. Gratitude may help form new relationships, and couples that express gratitude to each other often have stronger and healthier relationships.

How to practice gratitude?

Key aspects of any gratitude practice:

  • Acknowledge the good in your life
  • Take time to appreciate it
  • Recognize where that good comes from

An additional aspect of gratitude to take your practice even further is to return the kindness you have received or perform acts of kindness unprovoked.

Suggested Practices to Cultivate Gratitude

  • Create a daily practice of listing what you are grateful for; whether at the start or the end of the day.
  • Note good things when they happen.
  • Spend time investigating good things in your life and what their causes are.
  • Write thank-you notes for those who have helped, mentored, or inspired you.
  • Try the “mental subtraction” exercise of imagining what your life would be like if something good had not occurred.
  • Practice “counting your blessings” regularly.
  • Spend time in meditation.
  • Give thanks in prayer.

Not all of these ideas will work for everyone, but try as many as you can to see what works best for your strengths and personality. When you like something, it’s so much easier to stick with it!

To help your practice stick, it may be helpful to build habits around the methods you use. Check out my guide for building habits.

Final Thoughts

Gratitude is a way to avoid the traps of negative thoughts and instead appreciate the good that is around us while improving our wellbeing. What does your gratitude practice look like?

If you want to learn more about wellness and practices such as gratitude and mindfulness, subscribe to my email list to be the first to know when I post!

What is True Happiness and How Can We Achieve It?

When I told my editor-slash-husband that I was going to write about happiness, he wasn’t convinced. But it kept coming up with other topics so I knew it was something I wanted to explore. See, humans have always worried about happiness in some form or another (some cultures actually have a fear of being too happy!)

Before I dive in, I want to share a bit about my experience with “happiness.” I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for over 5 years and it’s that part of me that’s brought me to the journey I’m on today. I don’t mean to imply any of the ideas I’m sharing are quick cure-alls or substitutes for medication; they’re not. But they are useful in addition to medication, and also for people who aren’t dealing with mental illness.

I believe America (in the broad sense of the prominent culture in The United States and Canada) is going about happiness wrong. And it’s hurting people and the environment. I’ll explain how in a moment.

I’ll also explore other ideas about happiness, and share some ways to go about making yourself happier; the better way.

What We Have Gotten Wrong About Happiness

Americans are hyperfocused on being happy and living a perfect life. It’s not the average person’s fault; we’re bombarded by images in advertising, on TV, and on social media. Celebrity and “rich kid” culture makes us feel as though we don’t have enough; if only we had a bigger house, nicer clothes, fancier vacations then we’d be happy. This isn’t necessarily true.

Consumer Culture Makes Us Unhappy With More

We’re living in a consumer culture of more, more, more! where we buy nicer and bigger things to make us happy. But it isn’t actually making us happy. Why? Research in psychology points to the theory of hedonic adaptation (otherwise known as the hedonic treadmill) for a possible answer.

Hedonic adaptation states that positive and negative experiences do not affect happiness in the long term. Instead, while there is an immediate increase in happiness or unhappiness, over time we tend towards a set point. Our set point, or baseline level of happiness, is influenced by our genetics, our attitude and behavior, and our circumstances.

Hedonistic adaptation means that hedonism, the pursuit of immediate pleasure and avoidance of struggle, won’t increase our happiness in the long run. What we’ve been doing is not working. Worse, consumer culture is taking our time, wrecking our health, and hurting the planet.

Trying to Always be Happy Makes Us Unhappy

Our culture’s hyperfocus on happiness makes any grief or sadness unbearable. So we mask it or try to solve it: if shopping doesn’t work, we turn to medication. The happiness culture benefits pharmaceutical companies and anyone else who can market “sadness cures”. But unhappiness isn’t always something we need to fix.

Anything worth doing is going to be unpleasant sometimes. And when we accept that fact, we can stop feeling despair when we are in low spirits. It is normal to have off days. In effect, not worrying about being happy all the time, can actually make us happier.

An idea which is pervasive on social media is that we should always have everything organized and tidy; that we should always be happy and doing exciting things with lots of friends. When we get too fixated on the fake lives of online influencers, we can lose track of what matters.

Having a perfect matching kitchen is not as important as cooking nutritious food. A table full of pretty fruits and pastries is not as important as the people around you. If we focus on the “perfect life” that we want to live, we miss out on our real lives. And, we’ll never be satisfied; there will always be something else we want.

What Really is Happiness?

When you consider happiness, it can be looked at as overall life satisfaction, or as the experience of positive emotions. When you define happiness as the latter then the focus is on experiencing good things, and you easily fall into the happiness trap I described above. What feels good now won’t always feel good in the long run, and some unpleasant experiences are necessary to grow as a person.

The Ancient Greeks, Buddhists, and the new field of positive psychology focus on happiness as life satisfaction. The Ancient Greeks coined the term eudaimonia as an alternative to happiness as a life goal. Buddhism focuses on happiness through a positive mindset. Positive psychology studies the good experiences that make life worthwhile.

Happiness in Philosophy and Religion

Eudaimonia, whose biggest proponents were Plato and Aristotle, can be roughly translated to fulfillment. In the eudaimonic tradition of living, one focuses on living life in a worthwhile and satisfying way. Instead of trying to avoid bad experiences, you instead trust that while many of life’s projects may be unpleasant at times, they are also what makes life worthwhile.

In Buddhism, there is a distinction between transient pleasure, called preya, and real, lasting happiness, known as sukha. Happiness is defined in Buddhism as a state of mind. To be happy is to actively work on replacing negative, unproductive thoughts and actions with ones that foster gratitude and compassion.

Happiness in Positive Psychology

When hedonistic adaptation was first introduced in the 1970s it was prematurely concluded that we cannot do anything to make ourselves happier. No matter what we do, we will always return to our baseline of happiness. But new research in the field of positive psychology suggests otherwise.

As mentioned earlier, while our baseline is determined by genetics and external circumstances, it is also partly determined by our attitudes and behaviors. This implies that by changing the ways we act and think, we can make ourselves happier.

How Do We Really Make Ourselves Happier?

You cannot become happier by wanting to be happy. When you want something, you tell yourself you don’t already have it. And the feeling of needing more to be happy, which is a symptom of the consumer culture we live in, is bad for our health, our wallets, and our planet.

Instead, to become happier you should focus on creating a positive mindset and finding enjoyment in the processes of wellness. Wellness is the active pursuit of a more successful existence. It’s about conscious decisions to engage in activities and behaviors that serve to improve some aspect of your wellbeing.

Many of the habits that will make you happier are similar to the habits for wellness I recommend. Wellness is the process of improving your existence; it’s about finding satisfaction and fulfillment (as well as maintaining good health.) Of course your life satisfaction will improve as you work on your wellness!

Part of mental wellness focuses on your thoughts and how you perceive the world. By fostering a positive mindset throughout your day, your overall mood is improved as you spend more time feeling gratitude and contentment.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve woken up to find yourself surrounded by a consumer culture that is trying to sell you empty happiness, don’t be discouraged. Every action opposed to consumerism and every act of self-care is a step in the right direction; for you, and the rest of the world

Have you been focusing on the wrong things trying to make yourself happy? Did I miss your favorite activity to make yourself happier? Let me know in an email!

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