Can living a more sustainable lifestyle improve your mental health?
Yep, low waste could equal less anxiety.
Over the past few years, the detrimental effects of climate change have become particularly evident, and, have permeated multiple areas of our lives. Economic and political uncertainty, job insecurity, extreme weather patterns and the displacement that follows can all be linked back to our changing climate. In many individuals, this reality can induce serious anxiety.
The Environment & Mental Health
Our physical surroundings have a powerful impact on the way we feel. Take Seasonal Affective Disorder, for example. The low energy and sluggish feelings it can cause have been linked to the reduced levels of sunlight in the fall and winter months. Contrarily, a healthy environment can significantly improve our mental state. “Much research has shown the endless benefits of natural healthy environments, the ultimate healthcare system, including a potential curative effect on mental health,” says Dr. Raghu Appasani, PYM’s Chief Medical Officer.
Even more alarming than the correlation between mental health and physical environment is the link between certain air pollutants and mental illness. A recent study in The British Journal of Psychiatry found evidence linking certain pollutants to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide, especially among young people in urban areas. As climate change accelerates, our planet is not the only thing that will feel its effects.
So, how do we as individuals navigate the feelings that the world around us is changing in ways far beyond our control?
If you feel as though the world around you is burning and you can’t help put out the fire, you’re not alone. Eco-anxiety is an increasingly popular term to describe the worry associated with climate change and its effects. According to the American Psychological Association, 68% of adults say they have felt eco-anxiety to some degree. Addressing the current state of our environment can be overwhelming, and while some worry is reasonable, eco-anxiety manifests with symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Climate change is an issue much bigger than any one individual, which, as individuals can make us feel helpless. In turn, feeling helpless can make us feel even more anxious. Studies show that while many people are concerned with the effects of climate change, they feel paralyzed and unable to take meaningful action.
Regaining a Sense of Control
While individual actions will not solve the climate crisis overnight, taking small steps to reduce your own environmental footprint can help regain a sense of control and ultimately keep you from feeling helpless. Integrating simple lifestyle changes, like eating plant-based meals a few times a week or taking public transportation instead of your own car, can help reduce your carbon footprint. Taking action and doing something tangible to help the environment can lessen our anxiety by making us feel like we’ve done our best to make a difference. It may feel like a small step, but if everyone takes some small steps, that step becomes a bit bigger.
To explore the positive effects of a sustainable lifestyle on mental health, PYM has partnered with our friends at Zero Waste. Zero Waste is a waste and recycling management company focused on creating innovative, impactful solutions that reduce waste in real-time. Check out their blog for tips on how to implement more low-waste practices into your lifestyle, regardless of where you’re at in your sustainability journey.