Many amongst us may be finding it hard to get excited as the new year rolls in. Climate crisis is escalating, Australia burns, a new virus is claiming lives in China, planes are being downed and tensions in the Middle East rise. Again. Welcome to 2020.
The first month of the new year has already passed, but we might feel overwhelmed by global news already. It is natural to feel sad, anxious, angry and depressed about the human-induced state of the world today. So much so, that “eco-anxiety” has become a term in modern psychology as feelings of climate-related despair and helplessness have exploded across the globe.
You might wonder: Is it even OK to think about my resolutions in such difficult times? Does it even matter or make any sense? Or am I selfish, for dreaming about losing some weight this year, instead of becoming a full-time UN volunteer in Asia and cleaning mounds of plastic trash up from beaches?
Since the issues at stake are bigger than us, they seem to be out of our personal reach, so we feel helpless. We discredit small actions and get overwhelmed by big ones – the ultimate formula for developing a self-sabotaging behavior. As a result, we end up trapped in inaction while action is urgently needed. It is true, big problems need big solutions but we should never underestimate the impact of a small act. Or a small girl.
Difficult times give us an opportunity for change, and change starts with us. So here are three ideas to make positive change in 2020:
#1 Learn how to cook 10 recipes this year
According to the findings of renowned activist and author Michael Pollan, the all-deciding question regarding health is whether our food was cooked by a human being or a corporation. Corporations cook very differently from people: they focus on “craveability” and “snackability”, while disregarding the basic nutritional needs of human beings. The result? Obesity and diet-related diseases have become the main cause for premature death in the 21st century.
In the rush to gain money and time, food quality has been pushed aside as an afterthought. We neglect the importance of food, arguing that it is not a key ingredient for success. But how about health? We would all agree that health is a crucial prerequisite for success. Cooking healthy foods leads to a healthier and longer life, less financial strain, more safety in an economic recession, and even our all-time favorite new year’s resolution: weight loss. Yes, contrary to popular belief, weight loss happens in the kitchen, not in the gym. In addition, cooking at home can be a form of protest against the eco-disaster, that the amount of waste eating out creates.
Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk is a wake-up call for all of us: cooking is a life skill that needs to be taught again, in families as a tradition and in schools as a subject. We need to put back what has been lost.
By learning and teaching how to cook with fresh food, we are literally saving lives. So let’s take that cooking course and realize that every one of our individual efforts makes a difference.
#2 Join the challenge of buying no new clothes for a year
The majority of us own more clothes than we need. This is a fact that we can easily test by opening our wardrobe: soon we will discover pieces we have either never worn before, or worn only once or we simply don’t remember the last time we wore them. However, this is more than just an issue of storage space – it is also a huge environmental problem, as well as a financial one. We need to sort this out.
Undoubtedly, the fashion industry will have to reinvent itself with more sustainable solutions, and many companies are already developing new technologies to print clothes, spray clothes, download clothes and so on. There is no other future than a sustainable future. While we can wait for big fashion corporations to transform themselves, it is important to realize that the overconsumption of textiles is the larger problem that needs to be tackled. This is where we come in. We, the people, can contribute to the change by making a huge impact with our own individual decisions. Now is the best time to start.
Did you know that just by wearing your clothes nine months longer, you can reduce your carbon footprint for that garment by 30%? Also, if we all bought one used item this year instead of a new one, it would be equivalent to removing half a million cars off the road for a year, as we find out in Hasan Minhaj’s award-winning show Patriot Act.
#3 Master the art of storytelling and change your life
There is a story, and it is the most important story in your life. It is “the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are and how everything always plays out”. It turns out that it is not our circumstances that shape our stories, but more the way we narrate them. Considering our contemporary unhappiness epidemic, we urgently need to upgrade our narrating skills.
New research has proved that our childhood memories predict our future mental and physical health, regardless of their accuracy. This means that our mere perceptions of the past will dictate whether we will spend the next few decades in depression or happiness. As authors of our lives, we have the power: if we can change our stories, unlearn some chapters and reinterpret others, we can change our realities. Lori Gottlieb shows us in her TED Talk how it works. So why wouldn’t we apply some editing tricks to turn us from victims to heroes? Especially since we get to write only one story. The question to ask is: what do you want your story to be? You can make this year the chapter where everything changes…