Global environmental change is taking a toll on the mental health of children and young people. Impact studies of the climate crises have included psychological manifestations, and public health experts call it ecological anxiety. While not an actual health diagnosis, “eco-anxiety” is a well-known condition to describe a chronic fear of environmental doom.
Planetary health is closely linked to mental health. Recently, doctors in Canada have started to prescribe nature trips to combat depression. At the same time, exposure to environmental degradation continues to pose severe risks to our mental health. What can we do to mitigate both our mental health risks and the danger to the planet?
1. Hike, swim, and spend time with nature
Living close to a national park or a beach is a gift. Access to greenery, fresh air, and natural sunlight can do wonders for our health.
2. Join beach and forest clean-up crews
While we enjoy the benefits of having a beautiful surrounding, we have to do our part and make sure it stays that way. Volunteering to clean up nature sites annually will already go a long way, especially if done with family and friends who can influence their own networks.
3. Hydrate, sweat, and switch off energy-powered utilities
Energy usage of air conditioning units and heaters harms the environment, especially during the summer and winter months. While this technology is also life-saving in certain parts of the world, our bodies can adapt to weather temperatures more often than not. Taking care of our bodies is a fantastic way to show that we take care of the planet.
4. Sync with sunlight
Sunlight on the skin helps produce vitamin D, which has links to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Waking up early and sleeping on time helps us manage ourselves better, impacting the quality of our work and actions in our everyday lives.
5. Make greener choices
From the food we eat to how we travel, we experience stress after being bombarded with information on what is healthy and good for the planet. Having choices empowers us to be better consumers while compels us to demand more from business producers and public officials.
Natural resource consumption should be kept at a moderate level, no matter how healthy they seem. Most of our issues today are because of overconsumption and overproduction – two outcomes of a growing population focused on globalization. Without a sustainability mindset, our planetary challenges and overall health will worsen.
When we realize that we are the earth, we accept that we should only take what we can give. Anything more than necessary creates an imbalance, leaving us ill-equipped for recovery. By understanding that our decisions impact other people’s lives and how they decide, we can practice empathy and compassion towards our community. Whether we live in big cities or off-grid, we should remember that our planet is our only home – we should do our best to save it.