From Surviving to Thriving – Tools for living expansively in a non-vegan world
Where are you in your vegan journey? Are you a new vegan who excitedly wants to share veganism but feel thwarted by those who ridicule you, think you’re odd or who show no real interest? Have you become aware of animal cruelty and are outraged when others don’t become vegan when you tell them about it? Are you experiencing improved health and wellbeing and yet feel alienated from those who prefer to overconsume and concentrate only on their own personal interests? In short, are you surviving or are you thriving, feeling part of this new era of veganism with all its benefits for people, animals and planet?
The number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle is growing across the world, so is awareness of it by those who wish to resist, ridicule and criticise those who choose this lifestyle, understanding little of the philosophical basis underpinning this lifestyle. How do you become part of this social justice movement and also enjoy your journey so it underpins your life, rather than feeling your energy is spent defending yourself and countering attacks? In short, how do you learn to thrive?
The Keys to Thriving as a Vegan
There are two key things you must do to thrive and are to:
- Create a Positive Mindset.
- Become an Exquisite Communicator.
These two things go hand in hand. You can master all the tools and information to share with others but without the skills to handle difficult conversations, you will find yourself stressed, defeated and critical of others. To be a exquisite communicator of veganism you must create a mindset that reflects your desire and the unrelenting belief in the reality of a vegan world.
Neuroscience is now catching up with what many of us know intuitively, that in order to be credible and to get better outcomes, mindset and actions must be aligned. You cannot hide a negative mindset behind a smile, so if you are negative and feel powerless, it will undermine the effectiveness of anything you communicate about veganism.
Creating a Positive Mindset
Your thoughts, feelings and experiences are intimately linked. When you feel something negative, the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol are released into your system and you feel negative sensations in your body. When you feel this, you label it saying something like, “I feel awful, angry or disgusted”. That triggers more thoughts which release more stress hormones and this interaction results in labelling the emotion where you say, “I am angry or defeated” (or another label). Over time, the relationship between your thoughts and feelings becomes so intertwined and automatic that the body remembers it and it becomes a habit. The slightest trigger or association with the initially provocative information automatically results in a negativity and labelling of yourself as e.g. “angry, resentful or depressed”. When you see, hear or think of something related to this topic, before you know it, you feel all the emotions as if you were experiencing the original provocative event.
The same thing happens with positive emotions. This time, happy hormones are released. Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin and you feel hope, safety and trust. In short, whatever you spend your time thinking and feeling, creates your personal reality and to your change this, you must change the thoughts, feelings and actions that are recognisable as you over time and situation.
The Power of Visualisation
Your mind and body do not know the difference between real and imagined events. For example, when you wake up in the middle of the night after a nightmare, your body shows all the symptoms of fear as if there were a real threat i.e. increased heart rate, anxiety, fear and sweating. Once you realise it is only a dream, you change your mind and personal reality and yet moments before you felt that the threat was real.
To create a new Personal Reality of Thriving as a Vegan, you must spend time focusing on the world you wish to create, in your thoughts, feelings and actions. Two of the key ways to do this are meditation and visualisation.
The scope of this article doesn’t allow this topic to be explored in depth. However, I encourage you to find time, as little as five minutes each day, to visualise and experience the positive vegan world you want to create, in the present moment.
Strategy to Visualise a Vegan World.
- Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing.
- Slow your breathing down and quiet your mind by focusing on your breath.
- Imagine what a vegan world would look like and what would be happening.
- See the experience in your mind’s eye. What are you doing, thinking and saying in this ideal vegan world? What are others doing around you?
- See yourself and others in your visualisation being in this vegan world.
- Choose to experience the emotions you anticipate feeling when this world becomes reality and practice feeling them right now.
- Create a sense of gratitude for this new reality as if it has already happened.
- End your visualisation with the statement, “This is happening right now and every thought, feeling and action I have today, is moving me closer to a vegan world”.
These steps are a powerful way to set a clear intention and associate it with an elevated state of positive emotion. Research from neuroscience and quantum physics reveals that our imagination doesn’t just create a feel-good factor, it is correlated with physical reality. In short, ‘What you concentrate on, you create’.
The more you focus on the positive effects of veganism rather than the stress and anxiety of consumerism, environmental damage, animal cruelty or the fear-mongering media, the more you will learn to thrive as a vegan. When you thrive you become part of the rising tide of social awareness of veganism and bring that day closer. People around you will notice the difference and feel more trusting of what you say because your there is congruence between what you say and what you truly feel. You will not be coming from a place of judgement of them so they are more likely to listen because they feel you have their best interests at heart.
Becoming an Exquisite Communicator
Communicating veganism can be challenging, because people think you are directly criticising their lifestyle and choices and they resist that more than the reality of where their food, clothes, cosmetics and other consumer goods come from. Thus, you must learn tools and techniques that enable you to have difficult conversations easily. The key skills you must learn are to:
- Challenge your own assumptions about other people’s intentions.
- Keep an open mind and don’t assume a non-vegan doesn’t care about what you are saying. Resistance is often due to self-consciousness or feeling blamed for the world’s problems rather than resisting the content of your message.
- Develop active listening skills and ask more questions, check out what other people mean and adjust your message when they don’t understand.
- Pinpoint the “hooks” or topics that interest them and use these as a way to engage their interest. The key hooks around the vegan discussion include, environment, animal cruelty, health and wellbeing, economics or a sense of being duped or misinformed.For example, you may be a passionate vegan deeply concerned about animal welfare and you are always ready to share this information. A person asking, ‘So where do you get your protein?’ would understandably become resentful if you answered by blaming them for eating animals as a protein source. Imagine the response you would get if you talked to them about health and wellbeing and later teased in issues about the hidden costs of food production?
- Learn to play the part of moving people along a continuum of awareness from having no interest in veganism to becoming a vegan. Speak to people where they are at, realising that most of us need repeated exposure to new ideas before we change our own beliefs. You don’t have to do all the work. Realise that they will also hear about these issues from others, TV, adverts, social media and a connection with subjects they are interested in e.g. environment, wildlife or health. Ensure that your input to their continuum of increasing awareness is the best you can offer.
Communication Resource for Vegans
To become an exquisite communicator, you must learn key skills and techniques that underpin successfully having difficult conversations. You must practice these skills until they are automatic and you feel comfortable talking about “All things vegan”.
Vegan Voices is a new Smartphone App containing 30 days of FREE video communications training for vegans. When you download this app, each day you receive a short video direct to your phone, teaching you specific skills to respond to typical issues vegans face. Once you have grasped the best way to talk about a specific issue, you can practice the skills demonstrated in the video.
The Resources Section in the app contains links to videos, articles, books and other materials to send directly to other people to support the conversations you have. Vegans are encouraged to add any resources they find useful in communicating veganism, to help vegans around the world get the word out. Vegan Voices is available in iPhone and Android and is a growing resource to equip vegans to confidently communicate veganism and thrive as they usher in a more compassionate and healthy world.
DOWNLOAD the Vegan Voices App now: http://vegan-voices.com
So to thrive, take time every day to create a positive mindset and develop exquisite communications skills so you enjoy your vegan journey and usher in that world we all wish to belong.
This article by Clare Mann entitled, From Surviving to Thriving – Tools for living expansively in a non-vegan world is originally published in the November/December Issue 2016 of Barefoot Vegan. The issue focuses on travel and how to create a vegan festive season.
To access this issue, visit: