By Anne Therese Gennari
I used to believe that being an activist was an on-duty/off-duty thing. You know, something I had to take breaks from and simply ignore the fact that I cared about the world when I got too exhausted. And I got tired, all right! I was what I call an “angry activist” and I believed that was the only way to make a difference in the world. Because if I wasn’t angry, did I really care?
My growing awareness of climate change had me on a downward spiral and I honestly felt like I belonged there. Who was I to feel good and have a great life when so many others were suffering? If I didn’t bring myself to feel that pain, how could I ever make a difference?
It wasn’t until the day when I had my “climate optimist” awakening, as I call it, that I realized I had it all wrong. In order to help others, you have to help yourself first! After all — if a friend falls down a well, you don’t jump after her just to be able to say, “Well look at this, at least now we’re stuck here together!”
You find a rope, muster all your strength, and pull her out. And for that you need… you got it — strength!
What I finally figured out is that we (the do-gooders and change-makers) deserve to feel good, be good, and live good lives too. That is the only way we’ll actually make a difference!
Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your sleep/health/happiness/fill-in-the-blank doesn’t matter because the work you’re doing is too important? The “Oh, I can sleep later” sort of crap? I know we’ve all been there, but here’s the deal – your sleep, health, and happiness matter because your work is important! See what I’m saying? It sounds pretty self explanatory, yet it’s so easy to forget – the fact that we have to be good to do good stuff!
I want you to think of yourself as a cool car (yes it can be electric) on this journey we’re all traveling together towards a better world. This trip we’re on is long and we don’t really know when we’ll get there. It’ll probably take decades, maybe even longer than that, so in order to keep going, you have to make sure you’re fueling your car with only the best stuff!
Getting interesting? Let’s have a deeper look!
Is the feel-good hormone that rewards you for getting things done! It helps with motivation, productivity, creativity, and more. This is the hormone you feel when you wake up after a good night’s sleep and are ready to get to work!
Procrastination lowers levels of dopamine so if you feel stuck in a rut, make a list of three things you want done (start simple) and begin crossing them off. When you cross one thing off, you’ll get some dopamine flowing, and with increased motivation, you can move on to the next!
We need dopamine for productivity and motivation but we also fuel them in our activism work. When you learn new things, put that new knowledge in action, and start educating the world around you, dopamine will be flying high! So don’t just think or talk about it – be the change – and your body will reward you!
Is your mindfulness hormone that helps you feel more grounded and balanced. In the acts of slowing down and getting more attuned with ourselves – either through activities like meditation and yoga, or from walks in nature, journaling, or a quiet cup of coffee.
The more serotonin we have, the better we sleep, and we also feel more grounded. Increased serotonin → better sleep → higher levels of dopamine → a more creative and productive you → important work gets done and you feel grounded and happy!
Although activism is a lot about getting things done, it’s also about slowing down and creating space for new things to evolve.
The more grounded we are, the better we sleep, and the more committed we’ll be in our actions. I also recommend reconnecting with nature as often as possible, which will increase your levels of serotonin too.
Is our activist connection hormone! It’s released as a bonding hormone that makes us feel like we belong. We are social creatures and this hormone is NOT to be taken lightly!
So when you feel down or lonely, consider any of the following activities to kick-start your oxytocin flow: dancing to good music, hugging or kissing, calling a friend, laughing, massage, a hot shower, cooking with someone, or (this is my favorite) — eye-gazing!
When it comes to activism, this is your juice! You could be a hero in your own little bubble, sure, but there’s nothing that makes for a stronger elixir than sharing this journey with others. When you join a local grassroots organization or simply start taking action with friends, you will feel like you’re part of something bigger. And this can be one of the most rewarding feelings there are!
This might be the one you’re most familiar with as it’s what we call the “runners high”. Endorphins kick in to ease physical pain in extreme activities like working out. You also create a lot of endorphins when participating in group activities like soccer or a dance class. Endorphins make you feel high on life! It also increases your sex life and strengthens your immune system, so take your workouts seriously. No joke aside.
Activism is about stepping out of comfort and convenience and getting back into our bodies.
Showing up for the local beach cleanup, taking your bike to work, carrying those heavier zero-waste products, and – if you feel like it – showing up for a local march? All these things will create endorphins (AND oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin too).
By saying yes to the things that force you to use your body and infusing your system with all those feel-good hormones, you’ll soon be an activism machine!
You need all four to create your Secret Sauce but in what way you mix them is up to you, hence the name “secret”! Some of us can meditate for hours, others prefer a walk in the park. Some people are crazy about aerobics, others prefer to work out alone. Find what works for you and most of all – make sure to have fun!
Activism isn’t about sacrificing what we love and setting ourselves aside in order to show up for others. It’s the opposite — it’s about committing to the collective wellbeing and in doing so, signing up for a life of happiness, health, and meaningful actions!
So what will you do today to start fueling your happiness hormones? Choose one thing you’ve been wanting to try, learn, or implement in your daily routine, or a community group you’ve been wanting to join, and start there. Reflect – how does it make you feel?
And take a good look at your happiness hormones. Are you getting enough or how can you start producing more? How are you showing up for the super activist version of you? Have fun with it – let’s change the world!