These are just a few of the comments shared by vegans participating in my book research on the mind-body-spirit impacts of a vegan lifestyle.
My survey respondents reported that their vegan journey brought a greater appreciation for the natural world and all beings that inhabit it. Over and over, participants shared a sense of wonder in realizing the interconnectedness of all life. Over and over, they shared the realization that caring for the well-being of others is deeply connected with their own well-being. And while living this compassionate vegan lifestyle, they found that their own health and vitality significantly improved.
What helps to successfully move toward and sustain a healthy, plant-powered, vegan life?
Here are some of the top suggestions from my survey respondents:
1. Connect with a strong motivation for being vegan.
Whether it is for animals, for justice, for health and fitness, and/or for the environment, regularly connecting with your “Why” helps you to keep going when inevitable challenges and obstacles arise. Check out my article Going Plant-Based: A Revelation for Body, Mind, and Spirit to learn some of the compelling reasons for a vegan lifestyle.
2. Build positive supports.
Ask your family and friends to be allies on your vegan journey. Even if they aren’t willing to go vegan with you, explain the importance of your vegan lifestyle to them, and ask them to support you and back you with this. In addition, connect with like-hearted vegans who share your commitment. Discovering your vegan tribe can be one of the most helpful and meaningful parts of the vegan journey. You can find vegan supports through local or on-line plant-based/vegan communities, groups, or organizations. Taking action through volunteer work (for animals, human health, and/or healing our planet) can also create positive connections and a sense that you are making a meaningful difference.
3. Educate yourself.
Listen to podcasts, read books and articles, take classes, and check out plant-based websites. This helps to stay connected to your motivations for being vegan, as well as to learn practical tips and skills for how to thrive as a vegan. See my Plant-Powered Resources List for helpful websites, books, documentaries, and podcasts to empower your vegan journey.
4. Be proactive with social situations.
To stay the course with a healthy vegan lifestyle, it’s important to take responsibility for your own well-being and not leave things to chance. Plan ahead so that you always have vegan food available, whether you are eating out, travelling, or going to a social gathering. I learned this the hard way, after assuming there would be vegan options available at a restaurant or a social situation – and finding that sometimes there were not. I learned to speak up, call ahead, bring dishes to share at social gatherings, and to always have healthy snacks on hand. (For tips on handling social situations, check out my article Navigating Social Challenges on the Vegan Path).
5. Learn effective communication skills.
Healthy communication and relational skills are extremely important in expressing your wishes and needs as a vegan, as well as in advocating for the benefits of a plant-based, vegan lifestyle. A book that I found really helpful to improve vegan communication skills is Beyond Beliefs by Dr. Melanie Joy. For additional guidance, check out my article 7 Tips for Inspiring Others Toward a Plant-Based Lifestyle.
6. Practice healthy self-care.
Being a resilient, impactful, and healthy vegan means including yourself in your circle of compassion. This means choosing nourishing plant-foods that bring vibrant health and energy, enjoying exercise and movement, spending time in nature, enjoying time with companion animals, renewing through meditation and yoga, and drawing on spiritual resources. My participants noted that these self-care activities were essential for remaining empowered, hopeful, and resilient in their vegan lifestyle.
Incorporating these basic practices on your vegan journey will help you to flourish in mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Your shining example will in turn inspire and empower others, moving us toward a world of compassion, health, sustainability, and flourishing for all.
Angela Crawford, Ph.D. is a psychologist and transformational coach. She is passionate about empowering people to create healthy lives that nurture mind, body, spirit, and planet. Dr. Crawford is certified as a Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator, and has a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at e-Cornell. She is currently doing research for a book on the psychological and emotional benefits of a vegan lifestyle. She serves as a psychology advisor for WeDidIt.Health, an on-line community that shares the benefits of a plant-powered lifestyle.