Action #9 is about the ways I use to keep happy when thinking about some big, sad stuff. I think I need to actively practice this a bit more. Studying climate change and behaviour change (a difficult part of psychology), I can feel that it's all too much sometimes. And I don't want to get burnt out yet (I mean, at all!), I'm only 4 months in to this degree! I think we all feel pretty overwhelmed when thinking about climate change, and this can cause numbing and apathy... not good.
I have an fantastic friend (Hi Mel!), who I catch up with quite often, and we have very inspiring conversations, which sometimes drift back to talking about when some people's disinterest in the environment or other progressive issues gets us down. Our talks on this topic are usually about how to keep our energy up, how to keep motivated to try and make a difference.
And while I do sometimes get disheartened, I think I've cracked it, and worked out a way to stay positive most of the time. It has two parts.
Part 1. You have to attend to the world in a selective way. People do this all the time- often not by choice. We take in biased information ALL THE TIME, think about advertising! Think about glossy magazines! Lots of advertising is designed to make you feel bad- about yourself and your appearance, so you buy more makeup and clothes, or self help books, or food! Or they make you feel insecure about your social status so you buy more cars and more branded clothes... We are meant to compare ourselves to the unattainable images in pictures and on television, find ourselves coming up short, feel bad, and look to the props in the ad as a solution, and buy them.
And think about commercial television- no storylines about credit card debt, (or environmentalism, for that matter), because maybe that would make people less likely to spend money on the items shown in the ad breaks!
So the key to staying positive- is to choose which information to attend to! And there is a lot of crap that can be avoided. If I watch commercial television I don't watch the ads, or end up yelling at the television (or billboards- Your stupid bag is not going to make me happy, Target!- sorry, that's a pretty specific rant) and I stick to ABC as much as possible (ooh, I'm missing Spicks and Specks!). Glossy magazines are depressing, literally, that is the aim of some of the marketing - in fact, I think the only magazines worth buying are Dumbo feather, pass it on, and The Big Issue. I read my favourite blogs and environmental news sites every day (treehugger!- and see that link for instructions on joining the twitter greenstream), which means I am interacting with people who are doing amazing and exciting things, and at least some of the time I live in a world where the environmental paradigm shift that is coming has already happened.
It is important to still engage with the mainstream media, if only to be able to argue against things, but... it's good to balance this, and look after your own mental health first.
And as well as getting a bias of environmental innovation news, it makes it possible to avoid the environmental doom and gloom a bit, which seems to be the angle played by most news outlets, especially commercial ones. Playing on fear to get ratings. Very unhelpful! I really do not like being manipulated like that (see above, re: angry at television).
Part 2. is seeking out and giving positive feedback. This is where my inspiring conversations come in. Talking about things to do, and why, and what differences we have already made, and how everything is going. Being part of groups of people who do this, as much as possible. This kind of mutual encouragement creates a social environment which is empowering and encouraging of change.
So this action is about seeking out interactions with other people who have an interest, and are doing interesting things in relation to the environment. Or just talking with people who make you feel good. My friend Josh has a Mutual Appreciation Society, which sounds awesome. He's one of the ones who leaves lovely comments for me too, which really help.
So thanks Mel, and Josh, and Fiona, and Steph, and Mum, and everyone else who is happy to talk to me about this passion of mine, you are awesome. I hope to hang out with you all soon.