The important link between Mental Health and solving the Climate Crisis

Mental Health Hope Climate Crisis

Are you tired and weary of listening to the alarming news stories about the dire state of our planet Earth? (Climate Fatigue) Do you have a constant underlying feeling of dread and guilt about the Climate Crisis and your own part in it? (Eco Anxiety, Eco Shame, Eco Guilt) Are you trying to ignore all of that “doom and gloom climate stuff” and try to live your life as if it wasn’t happening? (Eco Denial, Eco Apathy) Maybe your life is consumed by trying to solve the global polycrisis singlehandedly and you are on the brink of burnout! (Climate Guilt, Climate Action without Self-Compassion/Self-Care)

All of these scenarios, and many more, are mental health symptoms directly related to the Climate Crisis. All of them are detrimental to human and planetary health and I want to explain this a little more:

As humans we experience a large spectrum of emotions. They all have their roles to play and they are all necessary at some stage in our lives. Usually, emotions are fleeting and directly connected to a certain event, a thought, or a life situation. When we get stuck with an emotion for a prolonged time, this can cause difficulties and have a more challenging impact on our mental health and other aspects of our lives.

There are two types of emotions I want to mention in relation to the climate crisis and why it is important to become aware of this: 

Constrictive emotions: These are emotions (ie fear, worry, despair, grief etc.) with the effect of retreating, constricting, restricting, isolating, slowing, or in short, reducing our expanding capacities. We build up protective walls and mechanisms, we feel stuck, unable to move forward which can result in feelings of apathy, denial and helplessness.

Expansive emotions on the other hand (ie love, kindness, hope, equanimity, compassion etc.) help us to move forward, expand, reach out and become proactive.

Recent research shows that the majority of the global population is affected by the negative impact of climate emotions.

When we look at the effects of climate emotions many of us are experiencing, it becomes clear that being hopeful, moving forward and becoming proactive is practically impossible if we don’t change our approach to mental health. We need to implement specific methodologies to change our mindset to live with more ease and well-being, both for ourselves and our beautiful Planet Earth.

You might ask: How is this possible? The situation is frightening, the facts are there, what could possibly change the way we feel about the future?

It’s not about putting on rose-tinted glasses, quite the opposite. There are many things that can greatly support us, and especially our young people to become empowered towards active hope. Positive Climate Action can only happen when we move from constriction towards expansion.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

Mindfully monitoring our media consumption. Rather than exposing ourselves and our loved ones to the constant onslaught of mainstream media, consciously pick where you get your information from. Finding channels that balance the worrying facts with the many amazing and hopeful projects and research that are going on around the world.

Making room to gently touch into what we’re actually feeling. Even if we try and distract ourselves, our underlying emotions about the climate crisis are with us. Acknowledging them can help to release some of their power, especially when we do this with others.

Self-compassion/self-care are vital to help our hearts and minds expand. Touching into our emotions and giving ourselves care and compassion as we would our loved ones is invaluable and a step that can’t be left out. Find out more here: http://www.selfcompassion.org

Making small gradual and maintainable changes in our lives. Overwhelm and perfectionism are two of the greatest barriers to taking climate action. We often think that nothing we do will make a difference but we couldn’t be more wrong. The small actions of many make a big difference, never underestimate people power! I always think of Jane Goodall’s quote:

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Moving from global to local. Rather than focusing on the monumental change we need globally, seeing what is happening right here in our natural environment and community. Are there any groups that resonate? Is there an issue I would like to become involved in?

Consciously connecting to Nature. Even though we might have forgotten about it, Nature is our home, our habitat. We are part of her systems and cycles, we ARE Nature. Feeling this connection draws us back to our roots quite literally and grounds us physically and emotionally.

Integrating regular gratitude and joy into our lives. Even on the most challenging days, there is always beauty and kindness all around us. When our minds are on autopilot we often miss the good things in our lives. We can rewire our brains by mindfully making space to see the joy and beauty, to count our blessings. This can be as easy as writing down three things before bedtime or stopping for 5 minutes at lunchtime to make room “for the good”. 

Touching into our creativity and spirituality. Hope is often associated with something that’s not quite tangible but is still there! In a world that has become very fast-paced and full of distractions, it can be very helpful to tap into something that is not fact-based. Something that revives that deeper soul connection we so often crave. We’re all different, for some this can be found in music, dance, painting, ritual, gardening, poetry… Just find what calls you.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you would like to learn more, I invite you to take my “Climate Hope through Mindful Nature Connection” course, which will guide you through a 7 element programme with a large library of helpful resources and a supportive online community. Earth Month offer ending at the end of April.

If you are a health or education professional, why not take the opportunity to integrate “Mindfulness Rooted Ecotherapy” into your practice? This 12-week online training will equip you with the tools to respond skilfully to the needs of your students and clients in both indoor and outdoor settings. Doors for registration and Earth Month offer close at the end of April.

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