5 Ways to Live More Ethically Without Getting Too Overwhelmed
Living more ethically can get overwhelming. Each action and every purchase needs to be considered and questioned. And often, one question only leads to another. It quickly becomes clear that there are no clear-cut right answers – and this can give rise to feelings of inadequacy, confusion, frustration and guilt.
But being overwhelmed by these sorts of feelings is exhausting. It’s no fun, and it probably isn’t sustainable. So how can you avoid it?
1. Accept (and I mean, really accept) that you can't do everything right, all of the time
It’s important to realize that there isn’t an easily accessible, objective definition of the ‘right’ thing to do. So you need to think about what it looks like to live in alignment with your ethical values on a practical level. This might look different to how other people see things. And sometimes you’ll need to make compromises, to focus on what's most important to you (right now).
I'm moving to the countryside and unfortunately a car has become a necessity. I feel super guilty about driving after ten years of car-free city living, but I’m trying to see it as part of a life change that’s for the better overall.
Embracing the opportunity to do your best in your current situation helps take the focus off your shortcomings. Simply moving the goalposts from ‘living ethically’ to ‘living more ethically’ is also really helpful, making it about an ongoing process rather than an unattainable end result.
2. Practice self-care
For me, living more ethically is about living better for yourself, as well as for other people and the planet. It’s so important to find ways to stay positive, calm and strong and make these practices a part of daily life. It helps you to keep living more ethically - better equipped for the challenges, and more fully aware of all the positives.
3. Slow down and simplify life
A life with less noise frees up the time and space needed to be more mindful of the choices you make, and focus on what's important.
Setting up simple systems to make everyday decisions in advance can be really helpful. Think organisational hacks like meal planning, capsule wardrobes and weekly schedules. Find what works for you!
4. Transform negative emotions into action that goes beyond conscious consumerism
Conscious consumerism is great. It allows us to align our lives with our ethical values (helping you to feel happy and fulfilled) and makes a positive impact on the planet and other people.
But it’s not without its problems. For one, it’s impossible to live 100% ethically, which can give rise to those feelings of frustration and guilt. And changing individual behaviours isn’t enough if we are to make positive change happen fast enough. Channeling negative emotions into other forms of action like holding brands accountable, challenging authorities to do better, sharing information with other people or starting a social enterprise can be a hugely constructive way to combat overwhelm.
5. Talk about it
It can be hard to talk about your concerns about the world or ideas on ethical living with people who aren’t necessarily on the same page. We don’t want to come across as preachy, or open the door to conflict.
But I think it’s so valuable to talk to the people around us about the challenges and issues we are thinking about, wherever they are on the spectrum of ethical living. It can make us feel less alone, give us new ideas and perspectives, help us stay focused on the bigger picture, and perhaps even inspire action.