On June 5th, ‘World Environment Day’ (WED) was celebrated internationally.As the name suggests, WED is a global day for raising awareness and committing to action on various environmental issues, reminding ourselves of our responsibilities as inhabitants and caretakers of the Earth. From a personal wellness perspective, however, WED thus creates the opportunity for everyone to change and
to become agents of change, not just of our outer world, the environment, but of our inner world, our personal mental health. Environmental wellness is personal wellness.By taking care of the environment we are also take care of ourselves. Reducing car emissions, for example, reduces damage to our ozone which in turn reduces our exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation, not to mention, keeping the air we breathe cleaner.
Another example is being careful to appropriately dispose of chemicals, such as paint and solvents, so that the local water table and soil remain suitable for drinking and growing food.
So what does the environment have to do with good mental health, in addition to our physical health?
In our last few monthly newsletters we’ve talked about wellness from varying angles. We may not appreciate that environmental wellness is part of overall wellness, but how we feel about it and participate in it can hugely impact our overall wellness, physical and mental.
Actively participating in the outdoors can play a crucial role in maintaining a better mood and promoting a general peace of mind.
Many who hike, for example, speak about the rewarding sense of spiritual and psychological renewal through spending time in the silence, stillness and peacefulness of nature.
Making outdoor recreational activities part of our daily or weekly routine can buffer stresses related to daily living as well as major life events and transitions.
In addition to exercising the body and keeping it working optimally, physical activities such as outdoor sports—soccer, baseball, mountain climbing, bouldering, snowboarding, skiing, swimming and water skiing, just to name a few – trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural stress and pain-buffering hormone.
Outdoor sport can also result in a sense of personal achievement, can build self-confidence and can facilitate a sense of social cohesion and belonging.
Less is more. We may not have heard of WED but most of us have heard of the environmental slogan, ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.’ Its ultimate aims align with WED objectives: to lessen climate change, unsustainable consumption, waste production and the degradation of natural non-renewable and renewable resources such as lumber, water, metals and petroleum.
While it is impossible to erase all human impact on the Earth, we can do our part to lessen it. Here the expression, The key to life is moderation, can guide us. So just how can we go about this? By leading a life of moderation’ that is mindful of our environmental impact?
Doing something positive for the environment, even on an individual or small collective level, can generate an exponentially positive impact on the planet especially if practiced by everyone, be it on June 5th or on a regular basis.
To lessen our contribution to climate change and the degradation of natural resources, people can choose to walk, cycle, bus or carpool to work, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.
We can also choose to buy renewable resource-based products like wood, metal and glass instead of petroleum based products like plastic.
To lessen unsustainable consumption, we can choose to make do with what we have for one day and not purchase anything, such as reusing an empty jar for leftovers rather than buying more plastic containers.
Consequently, we may find that the pressing need for buying something was not so necessary after all. If there is no option but to buy, choose a second-hand store where products are a cheap and sustainable alternative.
To lessen waste production we can be more mindful about not letting food spoil.
We can compost. We can donate our unwanted belongings to charities and thrift stores rather than trashing them.
We can choose to buy products that come in recyclable packaging or buy food in bulk. We can be mindful of our water consumption and flush toilets only when there is solid waste.
In addition to consuming less, we can get involved in doing more, like making the Earth more clean, more safe and more hospitable for us and animals to use.
We can simply pick up one piece of garbage a day and trash or recycle it.
We can also organize similar community clean-ups or tree-planting campaigns.
Conclusion. Making greener lifestyle choices as well as communing with the outdoors intentionally and regularly is part of a broader, well-rounded experience of personal wellness.
Indeed, living ecologically and actively in a local ecosystem not only effects change on a global level but on a personal one—it amounts to the health of the individual body, mind and spirit.
For in taking care of the environment, we safeguard the environment’s ability to continue to take care of us.
The great outdoors—it is not only ours to share with other species, it is ours to care for and ours to discover and enjoy for generations to come.
– Jay Brotherton, MA CCPA