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Care for It, Care for Yourself

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about a phenomenon known as eco-anxiety, or climate anxiety. This term refers to the constant worry and feelings of powerlessness and irritability related to the effects of climate change that we are currently experiencing. This is an example of how environmental awareness relates to our mental health. In this post, we will explore the more positive side: how the actions we take to protect our environment have a positive impact on our emotional and psychological well-being.



Numerous studies demonstrate a positive correlation between engaging in activities in nature, such as hiking, gardening, or simply observing the beauty of our planet, and the reduction of our levels of stress and anxiety (Marselle, M. R. et al., 2019; Sudimac, S. et al., 2022). Likewise, there are research findings that show how spending time in nature increases serotonin levels, which improves our mood (Park, B-J. et al., 2020).


But the benefits associated with nature go beyond mere contact and experience. For example, when we actively engage in protecting our environment, we can stimulate a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives, amplifying the positive effects mentioned earlier associated with our well-being. At the same time, our actions have a sense of transcendence since by protecting the environment, we are creating a positive legacy for future generations.



Last week, I published a lesson plan on the sense of belonging and community in elementary school students. This aspect is also fundamental for our mental health and can be equally supported through our activities to protect our planet. There are numerous organizations, clubs, volunteer groups, and other communities that share the same common goal and with which we can actively collaborate. In these spaces, where we connect with other people who share our values and objectives, we will not feel isolated in our purpose of improving the planet. Furthermore, we must remember the benefits associated with establishing new social support networks, which enrich our lives and offer us assistance in tough times.


Finally, we cannot overlook the effect that taking steps to protect the environment has on our self-esteem and self-confidence. When we shift from a passive and complacent attitude to one characterized by actions that, while they may seem small, generate a positive impact in our community, we become agents of change, which leads to an empowering experience. We realize that we have the capacity and skills to make a difference, which boosts our self-esteem. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, realizing that our actions contribute to a more sustainable future makes us proud of ourselves and aware that we can tackle the challenges associated with the environment.



In conclusion, protecting the environment not only benefits our planet but also our mental health. There are countless small actions and eco-friendly habits we can adopt. We don't need to go to the museum to throw paint on a Monet painting or chain ourselves to the doors of Congress to be environmental activists. We can try using less energy, reduce our meat consumption, or decrease the amount of waste we send to landfills. We can also pay attention to the products we consume and the services we use, and how committed the companies providing them are to protecting our ecosystem. And, if our schedule permits and we have the opportunity, we can seek out organizations in our community with environmental protection projects and offer our time voluntarily. In the end, one way or another, whether in the short or long term, we will all benefit.


References:

  • Marselle, M. R., Warber, S. L., & Irvine, K. N. (2018). Growing Resilience through Interaction with Nature: Can Group Walks in Nature Buffer the Effects of Stressful Life Events on Mental Health? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(6), 986. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16060986

  • Park, B., Shin, C., Shin, W., Chung, C., Lee, S., Kim, D., Kim, Y., & Park, C. (2019). Effects of Forest Therapy on Health Promotion among Middle-Aged Women: Focusing on Physiological Indicators. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(12), 4348. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124348

  • Sudimac, S., Sale, V., & Kühn, S. (2022). How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature. Molecular Psychiatry, 27(11), 4446-4452. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-022-01720-6


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