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The Power of Saying No

The Power of Saying No

17th February 2019

We're overwhelmed by choice. This afternoon I got lost in the supermarket trying to find a couple of items. Shelve upon shelve of tins, packets and plastic boxes filled with fish, gravy granules and sausage rolls. Do we really need all these items, many packaged in none recyclable materials? No definitely not (and yes, I'm not the biggest fan of supermarkets if you hadn't already guessed!).

Right, I need to get out of here pronto, but then I got a hankering for a quick snack and happened to stumble across (actually that’s I lie – I knew exactly where I was going) the isle with an old weakness of mine…whole food energy bars!

People tend to chuckle a smile of slight disbelief when I talk about my vices which are centred around peanut butter, rice cakes (dark chocolate covered of course) and whole food energy bars. But none the less, I’ve eaten all these to excess, sometimes all together in one frenzied feed with out little thought past satisfying a craving or asking the question as to why am I really eating them. Yes, their nutritionally more sound than an apple and cinnamon pop tart, but quite often they where calories I didn’t need whilst the packaging was adding to landfill.

I decided against buying a energy bar (I can imagine a few eye brows being raised at this moment) because there really was no need to, apart from satisfying an urge.

Why such a big deal about something that may appear trivial? To me it’s not so trivial. It’s actually quite a big deal for me, which is making me think about how can I consume less. What is the minimum amount I can thrive on without it being a detriment to our planet? It’s making me appreciate what I have more, realising how little I actually need or indeed want.

What would happen to society at large if we all exercised the power of saying no a little more, not just with the consumption of foods, but with things on a much grander scale?

How many times have you said yes to something when you actually wanted to say no? I’m guessing it’s countless. We shouldn’t be pleasing others at the expense of ourselves unless there is truly no other option. Be sincere and honest with people. Explain that what their proposing isn’t going to be in your best interests right now. People will understand. If not, then maybe your relationship needs working on or closure all together.

How can you cultivate the power of saying no?

With foods this can be tricky. Walking through the supermarket the isle ends are illuminated with red sale stickers on mostly processed foods (how often to you see broccoli and carrots half price?) to entice you in. It’s all conveniently put together, especially if you go shopping whilst hungry, stressed or a little dejected – you could easily be lured in to some chilli coated nuts! But this is a powerful time at which you can say no. Call it self control, discipline or will power, it’s all the same thing; making a conscious decision not to act on negative behaviour patterns when they surface.

But it’s not that simple right? Developing pig headed discipline in a world that will fulfil your desires at a drop of a hat isn’t easy. It’s a constant battle to stay conscious and not succumb to temptation. Get up in the morning and write out your mantra for the day ahead 10, 20, 30 times, and keep it close to you. When you feel your slipping away from your path you can read back to yourself your intentions to help cultivate new ways of thinking. Writing things down is a powerful tool that shouldn’t be underestimated.

I’ve highlighted this in the context of diet as it can be a daily battle negating habits that have been ingrained in us for a long period. If we all started taking action today the health of ourselves and our planet would slowly but surely start to turn around. Just imagine when we collectively develop and cultivate a practice of mindfulness whilst we go about our grocery shopping, saying no to processed foods more, buying locally produced seasonal goods, and refusing to buy items in packaging that end up in landfill sites.

What could we all do together if we started making small little changes in the way we spend our income? The truth is there is no future for the next generation unless we shift our ways of thinking towards how we treat our planet. We all have the power to say no to the current paradigm surrounding food production and consumption. In doing so we’d take back some control in helping shape our future health and well being.

This could act as a stepping stone towards us developing more self autonomy, a subject that can mean many different things to a broad scope of individuals. Encompassing a wider moral view, especially those that may be tied to religious or political beliefs, isn’t possible. Let people be as long as their not harming themselves or others. Our rich and diverse views of the world is one of the greatest aspects of our civilisation. 

What if we started to reject a system that feeds the notion that more is better, encouraging profit over people and the planet? Could we all as the dominant species on the planet realise and agree on one thing; the need to sustain and nurture the Earth. For if we don’t, we will become extinct – it’s that plan and simple.

What will we do when we’ve polluted all the oceans and hacked down too many trees that allow us to breath? No amount of numbers on a screen will save us, or praying, hoping for redemption. What will eventually help turn the tide is when we discover there’s no happiness to be found in the constant consumption of things we do not need.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we should become a puritanical race free from desires. I got sucked into some deluded and destructive ways of thinking towards trying to purify myself of the apparent sin of desire towards certain “things”. A six month stint as a vegan along with quests to go plastic free and abstain from my vices fed my anxieties and fears. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Now I find myself in a slight conundrum surrounding it all; do I really need to upgrade my phone?

It’s almost five years old, a little battered and bruised and slow on the up take some times, but it still works. Can I justify consuming another “thing”? And if so what’s the cost, not so much in my pocket, but to the planet. Would saying no actually be empowering me, or is it just feeding my dogma that consumption is bad? I’m leaning towards upgrading. I know it will help me communicate my message better to a wider audience.

We cannot tip toe around on the subject of how we consume the planets resources. We should be openly discussing how we can bridge the gap between where we are now and where we need to be, to bring some sort of realistic balance into the equation.

So, ask yourself these questions when you next spend your earnings at the till;

  • What kind of society and future am I supporting with my money?
  • Are these products needed and produced at as little cost to the planet as possible?
  • Is the company transparent and ethical in how it operates?

If you do so you could find yourself saying no to a lot of things, which going without will not take away from your life, but I guarantee in time will add gratitude, peace and space in your life for a whole lot more.

Yours with love,

Dave