For a long time, the idea of adopting environmentally responsible behaviours has been linked with the idea of sacrifice, deprivation, inconvenience, or even just too much extra effort. Despite all that, many of us have pushed through those barriers to adopt behaviours that are for the greater good.
This might have been small behaviours like remembering our reusables or investing in longer lasting products. It might have been bigger behaviours like changing how we commute or travel or installing solar power in our homes. It would make sense to think that we have pushed through because it’s the right thing to do, but there is now a decent body of research showing there are serious psychological benefits to being green.
For some behaviours, the reason eco-conscious options feel good are kind of obvious – for instance, walking or cycling instead of driving to work improves our wellbeing due to a combination of endorphin release, stress avoidance (i.e., traffic), and the positive impacts of exercise generally. Another example, switching to a plant-based diet, may also improve psychological wellbeing from a nutritional perspective.
Other behaviours can benefit our mental health in a range of other ways:
- Living aligned with our values and having a sense of ‘doing the right thing’ improves self-image and life satisfaction.
- Engaging in environmentally positive behaviours can give a sense of purpose, particularly as those behaviours are for a greater good, something bigger and longer lasting than ourselves; and, as a bonus, it can give us hope.
- Connecting with likeminded people or groups – even if it is a digital connection, like reading this blog post – fosters a sense of community and belonging, which is excellent for mental health.
- Proactive, environmentally responsible behaviours can help suppress the fear and negativity that can come along with environmental awareness. Action is one of the best antidotes to fear.
- Committing to environmentally responsible behaviours can help galvanise our identity, improving self-image; it also helps with accountability so that behaviours are upheld in the future, creating a positive cycle.
- All our individual pro-environmental behaviours help make those behaviours the norm in society. They all add up, creating broader, positive change, helping make those behaviours the social default.
- Many environmentally responsible behaviours have positive impacts on other parts of life – for example, reducing takeaway food (to avoid single use plastics), has cost saving benefits, while reducing consumption and embracing minimalism also has wellness benefits.
- Being eco-friendly typically goes hand in hand with spending time in nature, which gives a big boost to mental health. In turn, interacting with nature motivates us to be more environmentally active.
- Knowing we are treading lightly on the earth is a comfort in itself.
So, next time you are faced with the person who thinks composting is too hard, or they can’t be bothered to take their soft plastics back for recycling, you can let them know that there are many additional benefits to adopting positive environmental behaviours beyond direct environmental benefits. Who wouldn’t want that?
See you next time! - Elise
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.