Changing behaviour? It’s all in the mind

Grace French
Written by Grace French

This week I’m attending Ecobuild, the sustainable design, construction and energy event and a quick look at the conference programme got me thinking. There’s an intriguing session called ‘Unlocking environmentally responsible behaviour – can mindfulness help us make the change?’ I’m by no means a mindfulness expert but my understanding is that it’s a technique to improve life through increased awareness of the here and now. Could a more ‘in the moment’ appreciation of our world help promote less environmentally damaging behaviour? And if so, could mindfulness be a useful tool for wider communications and campaigning?

The very first step in encouraging people to change their behaviour is for them to be aware of a problem. This is the guiding principle behind public health and environmental awareness campaigns around the world. Many charities and public bodies opt for shock tactics – an image of a diseased lung or suffering animals and children. The trouble, sad but true, is that we very quickly become immune both to the flood of information and to the shock value of such activity.

Alternative techniques to encourage people to think about, and engage with the environment or health are more collaborative, using the stories of those already involved, and making them champions. Or, as we’ve seen with the #icebucketchallenge, celebrities doing something ridiculous will always help your cause make a stir on social media. The challenge then, once you’ve grabbed attention, is to convert that into long-term change.

Maybe the idea of mindfulness can help us here. It encourages people to proactively engage with the topic on their own terms, make it relevant within their own lives, and react accordingly, rather than dictating a set response. Once someone is truly aware of an issue, they can rapidly become a force for change. Maybe we should start developing more communications programmes that encourage people to be mindful as part of a journey to changing behaviour…?

Georgina is an Account Director at Stand Agency. She is always looking for inspiration in the world around her and likes nothing better than a good debate.

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