“Do your best to live life right” This is a phrase that I have been repeating to myself for the last few years and have found it to be helpful in recentering my mindset and framing my outlook on life. This phrase tends to come up when I have lapsed in one of my self-imposed responsibilities. When my discipline slips, my focus wavers, and the things I want to do/accomplish fall victim to my desires and negative tendencies.

But what does it even mean to ‘live life right’? This definition undoubtedly varies from person to person, but I believe there are some fundamental principles or practices that will underline any version of this idea that someone can come up with. For me, regardless of what you believe ‘living life right’ to mean, I think it should involve, in some capacity, taking care of your body, taking care of your mind, and/or giving back to your community in some way. The act or pursuit of these basic practices leads to a ripple effect of positivity that affects not only you, but your surroundings as well. This, of course, also includes the environment and the natural world that you interact with on a daily basis.

Personally, I’ve always considered myself someone that’s aware of the impact that my actions have on my surroundings and the world around me. Constantly in tune with the amount of space I take up, the amount of stuff I own, and the type of lifestyle I engage in, I’m acutely aware of the effects my actions have on my surroundings even if I perceive them to be focused only on myself or to be solely independent in nature. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” (newton’s third law) and creates a ripple effect of consequences whether you intend them to or not. The nature of these consequences is determined by the type of initial action committed and the intent behind these actions. In this essay I will look at some of the areas of my life where I try to ‘live life right’, and the types of repercussions and consequences that influence my surroundings as a result of my actions.

Fitness and exercise

Fitness is an integral and prominent part of my life and has been for many years. I’ve played many different sports, have done a couple different types of martial arts, go to the gym regularly, and run as often as possible. I might not look the greatest, but I feel good and being active fulfils me. There are some obvious benefits that being an active person can have on an individual. More energy, lower weight and body fat percentage, and a positive outlook are just a few. What is less obvious, however, are the benefits for the environment and your community.

Less pollution

If it is within walking distance, then I always choose to walk. I also don’t have a car (not necessarily by choice) and instead opt for public transport. This means that there is one less car on the roads due to these two simple choices. This also means that there is less traffic and congestion on the roads (admittedly only by one) which results in less air and noise pollution. By simply walking to work and around campus, or wherever, I have reduced my personal pollution contribution. As more and more people decide to walk or cycle to where they need to go, or choose to use public transport, or decide to carpool in order to reduce the number of cars on the road, then the end result is a significant decrease in various forms of pollution and a positive result for the environment. It starts first with individual people making personal choices, and compounds in the end to make a significant change. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to be able to take public transport or walk everywhere, but no one is asking you to. Simply driving less, carpooling more, or taking your bike/walking short distances instead of driving is a good enough place to start.

Potentially inspire others

Taking care my body and staying active could potentially have the effect of inspiring the people around me or the people I reach online to become more active themselves and take better care of their bodies. By becoming more active, they will be able to reap the rewards and experience the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle but will also be inadvertently impacting their surroundings in the ways mentioned above.

Having an active lifestyle, and engaging in fitness to whatever capacity you are capable of, only has net positive outcomes for your personal well-being and for the wider environment. As more and more people become active, the wider positive effects will begin to compound and multiply and significant change will occur.

Healthy diet

My diet is pretty simple to be honest. I’m not on any special diet and I don’t count calories or anything like that (I’m just too lazy – no other reason). Instead, I focus on eating quality foods and try to reduce the amount that I snack. I rarely eat out and instead focus on home cooked meals. The only change I’ve made to my diet is trying to eat less meat and almost completely cutting out dairy. I’ve experienced many benefits as a result of this but there are also wider benefits of this decision. By reducing how much meat and dairy I consume I am actively reducing my personal carbon footprint, as well as my water footprint.

Carbon footprint

The supply chains through which the food we consume is produced, processed, and transported, release and emit a large amount of greenhouse gasses which has a major impact on the environment. The carbon footprint of producing food resources includes the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide which are major greenhouse gasses associated with agriculture. By significantly reducing the amount of meat and dairy I consume, as well as reducing how often I eat out, I am both making a positive change in my personal diet as well as actively reducing my carbon footprint. While this might seem like something small and insignificant in the large scheme of things, I believe it is important to highlight. The power in these decisions only truly manifest themselves when enough people are involved. Without starting the process yourself or having the conversations, however, this is unlikely to occur. Education is the most important element when trying to address issues of this scale. Individually these decisions mean little outside of myself but collectively it can possibly have a significant effect.

Water footprint

Water footprint represents the amount of fresh water used in the production or supply of the different goods and services used by individuals and companies. The water footprint of individuals is mainly determined by the food they consume with the largest contribution to this being animal products. By reducing the amount of meat and dairy I consume, and animal products in general, I am able to significantly reduce my water footprint. Of all the animal products, beef is by far the largest contributor to having both a high water, and carbon, footprint. By simply being more selective with my protein choices and opting for a different source of protein, I can also positively impact my personal impact on the environment.

Proper rest, stress relief, and giving back

So far, I have talked a lot about my physical health and what I do to maintain it. This section is more focused on my mental health and the things I do on a regular basis. I only started actively thinking about mental health over the last few years and, while mental health and discussions around mental health have recently become a trend, I still think it is worth talking about now.

Proper rest

The main way that I relax and clear my head is by getting proper rest. This doesn’t simply mean getting enough sleep, though that it is an important part of it. Proper rest to me means allowing myself to take breaks when I feel overwhelmed (with work, school, life, etc.), pushing myself both physically and mentally but giving myself the time and space necessary to properly recover, and making time to specifically do the things that I enjoy doing. I also engage in ‘active rest’ after exercising such as walking and yoga which helps to keep my body functioning to a high standard even when I’m tired.

All of this has the compound effect of helping me to have a clear mind and a fresh, positive outlook on the things that I do. While not as obvious as the other points, this can also have an impact on your surroundings and the people around you. Having a positive outlook and a clear mind allows you to make good decisions and dictates the types of interactions you have while going about your day. Whatever state you are in when you interact with someone directly impacts them in some way or another, whether you intend it to or not. Being well rested allows you to be positive, pleasant, and less irritable.

Giving back

Giving back comes in two forms for me. Firstly, through keeping my surroundings clean by reducing, reusing, recycling and, secondly, by volunteering my time, skills, and services in different places. Reducing, reusing, and recycling is exactly what it sounds like. I try to reduce the amount of stuff I have and use throughout my daily life and live as minimal a lifestyle as possible. In terms of reusing and recycling, I use reusable bottles, bags, and containers, and try to get as much use out of items before throwing them away or recycling them. By reducing my personal waste, I am contributing to keeping my surroundings clean.

I have been volunteering with different companies and on different projects for a long time now and find it to be a good use of my time when I have some time to spare. This is not to say that I spend all my free time volunteering (that’s just not sustainable) but I try to do as much as possible. The wider effects of this on my surroundings are more direct and obvious. By giving my time, energy, and skills freely to a cause or company I believe in, I can directly impact the people involved and positively impact their lives in some way. Giving back to your community in some way, no matter how small, has a ripple effect that affects both the community and the people who live in it.

Final thoughts

The main point I have been trying to get across in this article is, not that my current lifestyle is the best type of lifestyle available and everyone should live like me, but that even the small, insignificant details of the way we live our lives can actually have a big impact and knock-on effect on our surroundings, community, and the environment in general. By talking a little bit about my current lifestyle and the benefits that I see as a result, I hope this will cause you to take stock of your lifestyle and see what simple things you could change or implement. Every little bit helps, and you don’t need to be a hero or do a complete overhaul of your life. That’s pointless, unsustainable and a lot of effort. Grand gestures rarely work, and empty promises are worthless. Working on yourself is a constant process and the process of self-improvement provides countless opportunities to make a positive impact in one way or another – you just need to be open to them and aware of their possibilities.