When I was planning my wedding in early 2016, I was unsure what to do about thank you cards. As an adult, I had essentially stopped using all greeting cards because it seemed so wasteful: a pricey, single-use item that after having served its purpose, you are left with guilt for throwing it away, or it’s added to a stack in a hat box that lies for years forgotten in a closet. Then one morning on my way to my desk job, I considered putting a notepad inside of a card so it could be reused. This thought was the beginning of my small business journey of creating my reusable greeting cards made with 100% recycled paper, as well as up-cycled envelopes handmade from books and calendars.
It wasn’t until starting an eco-friendly paper goods business that I became immersed in the intentional-living communities online that made the “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto of my childhood make more sense than ever. If it weren’t for my business (and the internet), I would not be on my intentional living path today – a path that leaves me feeling more fulfilled and purposeful than ever. And my products can be a stepping stone for others to reconsider their own actions, and how we practice intention to our daily lives.
Intentional living is a journey that we take individually, and at our own pace. These are 5 mantras I use in my daily life to focus my choices and my thoughts, as well as what each mantra means to me.
- Kindness towards others fulfills the basic human need to be seen, heard, and needed.
- Smile and maybe say “hello” to a stranger walking by on the street.
- Listen to a coworker vent without feeling the need to fix or judge their problems.
- Think of someone you value in your life, and tell them. Give them a call, or send some snail mail to your loved ones.
- Self-care: Check in with yourself regularly. Address what you need as often as you address the needs of others.
- Take care of your body with exercise and daily genuine love and acceptance
- Try talk therapy, where someone will listen to anything you have to say in an unbiased manner and keep your best interests in mind.
- Self-care takes many forms. Only you can identify what it means to you.
- Control your reactions. Your reaction to any situation has the power to change that situation. Consciously stopping negative thoughts and words and shifting to a more positive vocabulary can drastically improve your life.
- Be sure to acknowledge the full range of your emotions but don’t let them run your life: you can feel angry, but work not to hold onto the feeling. Inversely, you can feel ecstatic without feeling the need to chase that emotion.
- If a plant’s growth is improved with positive words, imagine how you and others around you can flourish with daily kindness.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
It’s time to take your rightful place on Team Humankind. Consciously take action to make the world around you a better place.
- Practice radical empathy
- Give people the benefit of the doubt as well as the space to be imperfect – strangers on the street, coworkers, friends, and even family members are all dealing with struggles you know nothing about.
- Team Humankind is too large and beautifully diverse to agree on every last thing, but that’s okay. Respect for and kindness towards others, regardless of whether they agree with you or not, is the only way positive connections can be made.
- Play an active role in your community:
- Volunteer for local organizations that focus on the issues that matter to you. Join email mailing lists to stay in touch even when you can’t physically participate.
- If you are able to give to others, do so. It doesn’t have to be material possessions: consider donating blood or think about providing hair for patients in need of wigs.
There’s no such thing as “away” when you throw something away.
There are garbage islands in the oceans, and waves of trash washing up on beaches worldwide. Plastic takes a very long time to decompose; the plastic water bottle you used once and tossed yesterday will outlive everyone alive today.
Educate yourself about the waste problem that the world is facing. Pay attention to the circle of life of every item you touch:
- Where did it come from?
- What resources were used to create it and then bring it to you?
- Where is it going after you’re done with it? Landfill? Compost? Recycle?
- Tips to reduce your home’s waste:
- Use what you have before you buy
- Shop used clothes and furniture instead of new
- Shop local
- Household items to swap for more eco-friendly options (there are many more):
- Cloth napkins and towels
- Metal drinking straws
- Buy groceries in bulk or in glass containers
- Reusable produce and grocery bags
- Bamboo toothbrushes
- Shampoo bars instead of bottles
- Reusable water bottles and travel coffee cups
Food is fuel.
- Stay hydrated. Drink more water than anything else throughout the day.
- Eat veggies everyday.
- Humans can survive and very much thrive without eating meat; consider trying it yourself!
- When you eat better, you feel better. Cooking at home is healthier for your body and further protects the Earth by reducing trash and food waste.
- Learn about “ugly produce”: farmers are forced to trash (or sell at a reduced rate as animal feed) perfectly edible produce because grocers either considered it unwanted surplus or it doesn’t meet their (the grocer’s) “beauty standards.” Check out the number of organizations doing something about this – including weekly delivery services.
Win or Learn.
Resetting and incrementally expanding your goals is a main component of intentional living. Be mindful on a regular basis of what’s working, what’s not, and then how to continually pivot closer to your goals.
- Your friends and family may not understand or relate to the new life choices you’re making. Practice empathy and remember that you probably only recently had a similar outlook as them.
- Try sharing with them what you’ve learned and what you’re doing about it now- but don’t expect any immediate change from them.
- Educating yourself on the realities of plastic production and waste doesn’t magically eliminate the plastic in your home- or stop you from buying more plastic. What matters is the conscious effort to make gradual changes in your life towards a reduced plastic household and lifestyle.
- Not every workout is going to be phenomenal. The act of pulling the yoga mat out, lacing up the sneakers and getting an increasing amount of sweaty as often as possible still counts as working towards the life you want.
Perfection is not the goal. Life is about the journey not any single destination. It is essential to the human condition to strive towards something. Consider this goal: to find peace in accepting where you are today while simultaneously working towards a better future for yourself and those around you.