Being a vegan in a non-vegan world can be taxing. Everywhere you look people are selling, serving, and eating animal products. Most do so without a thought about where these products came from, nor how they ended up on their plate. As vegans, we know where these products come from. And frankly: we’d rather not think about it.
With the constant dialogue around fishless oceans, forestless lands, and the plight of sentient beings: it’s no wonder we can feel a little overwhelmed at times. For those of us who are highly empathetic to others suffering — which, let’s face it: is the reason we became vegan in the first place — it can be worse. The state of the world can weigh heavily on the vegan mind, but there are ways around it. The vegan movement is important, but so is our own mental health. Kindness must begin with being kind to ourselves first. It’s no secret that we want things to be better, but we must remember the good that we’re already doing, celebrate our success, find a tribe of positive people, and keep gradually working towards the world we want to live in.
Here are four tips for staying positive in a non-vegan world:
- Find your people
We all need our people around us. Whether we share the same interests, or we just have each other’s backs: it’s so important that we have people who will be there for us. When it comes to veganism, finding a tribe is more important than ever. Veganism is growing in popularity globally, chances are, regardless of where you live, you’ll be able to find people in your local area who are vegan too.
If finding people locally isn’t an option for you: then find a community online. There are vegan Facebook groups and a plethora of vegan Instagram accounts where you can connect with fellow vegans. Finding a community of vegans both online and in-person has been incredible in my own vegan journey. It helps to know that people get you and that you don’t need to explain your choices.
Ideally, your tribe should be filled with positive people who uplift you, not the sorts who want to judge, compare, and constantly dive into the world’s problems. Think of these people as your support system who help you to operate in a non-vegan world.
2. Be careful where you focus
I know this might seem controversial: veganism is the opposite of head-in-the-sand-ism after all, but putting our heads in the sand might, occasionally, be good for us.
Highly graphic content affects us: that’s precisely why it’s being shared. Animal activists play an incredible role in helping the general public understand where their food comes from. Keep in mind though: the content being shared is designed for non-vegans to help them understand the contribution they are making to others. As vegans, we don’t contribute to these unethical practices anymore, which is to say: if we don’t want to watch it: then we don’t have to.
Have you ever considered whether the content you consume is affecting your mental health? Did you know, an IDC Research study found that a whopping 80% of smartphone users check their devices within 15 minutes of waking each morning? I’m one of that 80%. As social media users, while we do select who we follow, we don’t get to select exactly what we’ll see when we open social media. If you follow animal activists, there is a good chance that the first thing you could see in the morning is something violent. Consider how that might affect your mental health.
I believe it’s essential that we only follow individuals who enable us to feel uplifted and positive. If you think watching Seaspiracy will traumatise you (as it did me) don’t watch it (but do recommend it to your non-vegan friends). If there’s someone who you follow online who makes you feel stressed or anxious: unfollow them immediately. Don’t be afraid to avoid that difficult relative who doesn’t understand your views. And so on.
I recently unfollowed a number of animal activists who I respect deeply, but whose content affected my mental wellbeing. I had to keep this in mind: their focus isn’t on me, it’s on non-vegans.
3. Know that you’re already doing enough
Vegans seem to be plagued with ‘I’m not doing enough syndrome’. I know I feel it. And many others in the community do too. It’s important, then to remind yourself of just how much you are doing. You have changed your lifestyle significantly simply so to avoid harming others. Bravo.
There are some who say that being vegan isn’t enough and that we must share the message too. To this, I say, ‘thank you, but no thank you.’ Being vegan IS enough. Vegans tend to be an empathetic group of people. Frankly, we don’t need any more pressure on us. Existing in a non-vegan world is challenging enough without the guilty feeling that we could be doing more to help. It might not be possible in your lifetime to save every animal, but you save animals every single day by leaving them off your plate (and out of your wardrobe).
It’s important to know that what you do does make a difference. Remind yourself of this often; daily is necessary.
By all means: if protesting, writing, sharing content online, starting a podcast (as I did), writing a book, or any other endeavour designed to spread the message inspires you: fantastic. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.
What you are doing is (more than) enough.
4. Get into the positive side of veganism
I’m interested to note that veganism is often associated with what it isn’t. Veganism simply means avoiding suffering to animals wherever it is possible. Yet there are some who make the association with extremism and violence — the precise opposite of what the lifestyle actually is.
To me, veganism is a new world of possibilities. It’s healthy plant-based recipes, abundant living, and a soulful connection with the earth. It’s healthy, sustainable, kind, and ethical. It’s visiting incredible plant-based cafes, living a healthier lifestyle, and being kind to Mother Earth.
Being vegan to me means living in the sunshine, walking lightly on the earth, and aligning my values with my actions. To keep positive, I focus on what I want the world to be like in 2050 — plant-based, sustainable, healthy, and ethical. Then I find examples of that in my natural surroundings be it people, places, or organisations who are already living this example.
Ironically, I believe that being a healthy, happy, thriving vegan is the most powerful and attractive kind of activism there is. Why? Because people are attracted to the light. So if you want others to follow in your footsteps, and if you want to feel good, I say: be the light.