When it comes to confronting environmental issues, there are a handful of psychological barriers that each and every one of us faces. Before we can start working to improve matters, it’s important that we’re aware of our own limitations.

These days, we have access to so much information about our world. In fact, we’re bombarded with it constantly. Despite knowing so much about imminent threats to our environment, many of us don’t feel compelled to act.

Here, we review some common psychological barriers that prevent people from being proactive in the face of environmental issues. We lay out solutions, offering simple ways to overcome the apathy and denial tied to each issue.

Barrier: “These issues don’t affect my daily life. I feel disconnected.”

You hear about melting icebergs and starving polar bears. You also hear about the massive conglomerate of trash in the middle of the Pacific ocean. But, you never really come face to face with these ugly realities. In fact, you could easily live the rest of your life without having to confront any one of them.

The truth is, it’s hard to engage with an issue that doesn’t seem to take a toll on your personal life. To you, it’s just an abstract series of events that doesn’t seem to bode well for some distant group of people or animal species. In this technological world, we’re subject to overwhelming amounts of information about tragedies happening all over the globe. At first, you might feel daunted, but eventually you risk becoming desensitized to it all.

So, how on earth can you remedy this?  

Solution: Start by getting involved in your local community.  

Hear us out! We know you hear ‘local community’ and think, “there’s no way these kinds of contributions are enough to make any serious impact.” Your feelings are rooted in ‘all or nothing’ thinking, and we promise you that’s not the way to go! Here’s how it works:

You might see a restaurant menu with all local food sources, or a neat recycling bin on a street corner. Maybe you see that your neighbor has solar panels on his roof, or that your coworker is cycling to work everyday. Each time you experience this, you’re inspired to better your own habits. And once you see that your friends and family are engaging so wholeheartedly in a cause, you’ll feel more open to joining in on the good deed. This is because we’re deeply social beings, and your local community’s spirit inevitably affects you.

So, now is your chance to set a good example for others. Pick an environmentally-conscious activity and share your progress with friends and family. Even better, invite them to join you in the fun. Here are some examples of activities you can get into:

→ Build a garden with friends and family, and have dinner parties using the produce.

→ Do a ‘30 day vegetarian challenge’ with your partner or roommates.

→ Start a weight loss challenge with coworkers, by cycling or walking to work.

Remember, your involvement doesn’t have to be heroic. You can engage in any small activity, and that’s a good thing. Why? Because once someone sees you doing it, they’ll be inspired to make a better effort as well.

Barrier: “We’re doomed anyways.”  

We hear bad news every single day. Over time, we can fall into phases of feeling totally helpless and doomed. Lately, psychologists have even coined a term to describe it, called ‘apocalypse fatigue.’ The world is a massive, chaotic place, and human beings are, at times, brutally short-sighted and ill-intentioned.

So, what are the steps to staving off this doom-trap?

Solution: Be an anchor for other people.

Every leader keeps people grounded. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and then spiral into a confused panic. But, the only way to make things better is to live out your ideals to the best of your ability and to be supportive of others in the midst of the madness.

What does it mean to be an anchor for others? For one, it means to lead by example. Instead of focusing on others’ mistakes, focus on what you can do. Secondly, you need to support others around you, not threaten them. Try engaging your friends and family by suggesting environmentally proactive things they can do, especially things that are fun and easy to get into. Once people get started on a new activity, they’ll naturally become more involved, and their small contributions may turn into major ones.

Staying optimistic in hard times is challenging, but it can make you a stronger person! Remember, you can always take environmental issues into your own hands by incorporating green activities into your lifestyle, which can inspire friends and family to do the same. Practice holding yourself accountable and sticking to your ideals, despite the state of the outside world. You can help others to do the same by being supportive (and not threatening). If you have any green tips to share, tell us about them in the comment section below!

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