Here at Pildora, we think of sustainability as an evolution, a process rather than a destination. It is a joyful awakening and a way to become more present in the world.

Step 1 of our sustainability process is about reconnecting to yourself. It’s a vital beginning to a holistic, inside-and-out process. Next, I’m focusing on connecting to others and why it matters when creating a sustainable lifestyle.

Why do we connect?

Without connection, we exist in a vacuum. Sustainability depends on each individual truly caring about what becomes of the Earth and the humans who live here.

Empathy is a key component of connection and we cultivate it through our awareness of and presence with others. I’ll be honest: it’s so much easier to just zone out and buy into what’s convenient and quickly satisfying. But achieving long-term joy is worth the work.

I’ve noticed a shift in the way humans communicate with each other — maybe you have too. There’s a guarded edginess to the way we relate to one another and a palpable lack of joy. Everyone seems to exist in a “zombie state”, eyes fixated on their phones, moving through the day without true awareness.

Reexamining and reestablishing relationships

So how do we begin to nurture empathy with others? I like to start by mapping out my relationships. Sometimes, listing out the people in my life helps me examine the way I treat them in a more conscious way. Think about your family, your friends, your colleagues, strangers on the street: What’s your energy like with each person? Is there synergy in those relationships? What benefits are you sharing?

In the past, I have taken my loved ones for granted, as many of us do. We roll out of bed in the morning and instantly start scrolling through our inboxes. We absentmindedly sip our coffee and jot a thoughtless “LOL” to a friend’s text. It’s understandable in a world where we are taught that life is busy and things have to get done.

But what would it look like if we slowed down? Consider being still and open during those opportunities for connection. What would it feel like to linger for that extra hug or meaningfully respond to a friend instead of moving on to check the news right away?

The key to reconnecting in these relationships is to listen mindfully. Be present as the other person is talking as if they are the only one in the room. Don’t think about the task list on the back burner.

As soon as I was able to prioritize these moments, I discovered an immediate shift in my wellbeing. There was a new sense of peace and gratitude. Everything began to move more slowly and joyfully. All of a sudden, instead of feeling like time was in short supply, I felt an abundance of it.

Creating new connections

We must also focus on those with whom we haven’t built a connection, whether they are strangers, colleagues or distant family members. Many of us instinctually separate ourselves from potential relationships.We stand back and wait for someone else to make the first move.

Try to actively make a new connection today, without fear and with a truly open heart.

The psychology of making new connections is complicated because we each come to the table with our own baggage. For me, I discovered that the world opened up once I engaged in one simple act: maintaining consistent eye contact. Once you look into a person’s eyes and truly see them for who they are, you begin to create the circumstances for connection.

Eye contact may not come naturally at first. We’re trained to look away, so as not to appear awkward or off-putting. But it gets easier every time, until it is second nature, as effortless as breathing.

Of course, not every moment of connection becomes a friendship. But the point isn’t always to create a lasting relationship.Sometimes this exercise is just about adding a spark to someone else’s day. That spark can release a chain effect of joy and empathy, gradually changing the tone of the world around us.

The joy of connection

In the end, we are responsible for each other. We protect and care for those around us, trusting they will do the same for us. The stronger our bonds are as a community, the brighter our collective future will be.

Belonging to a community helps us all find our place in the world. For years, it seemed like joy was a passing dream, a thing to aspire to. But that often rocky journey is what  brought me here, to my current space of deep joy and fulfillment. I want others to have the opportunity to experience it, too.

We’re all in it together. At Pildora, we want to connect with you. Stay tuned for Step 3 of the sustainability process, Connecting to the Earth, where we’ll share practical solutions for actively engaging in the journey to sustainability.