It seems there’s another ‘day’ for everything at the moment. Some are silly like Nutella Day (wholly justified IMO!) and others celebrate much needed issues like World Environment Day on 5th June or World Ocean Day in its 30th year on 8th June.
This week we have been thinking about the role of the planet on our mental health. We are encouraged to spend time in nature, to be inspired by mother earth and to cherish it. Biophilia – a love of plants – is everywhere at the moment, with people filling their homes with houseplants and growing herbs 🌿
So what about when things aren’t looking so rosy for the Earth?
Definition: “a chronic fear of environmental doom”
With headlines about droughts, wildfires, floods and increasingly extreme weather events, it’s easy to understand why we have experienced a spike in anxiety stimulated by concerns for the planet.The British Medical Journal published a paper citing eco-anxiety has a ‘disproportionate’ impact on children and young people. In an even more recent and wide scale study published in The Lancet, more than half of the 16-25 years olds surveyed believe humanity is doomed. For Gen Z, climate change is a ‘heavy emotional burden’ with social media being blamed for sharing alarming news.
There is a wealth of research about the negative impacts on our physical health such as air pollution leading to respiratory conditions, and now scientists are studying how our mental health is affected too. In fact, ‘climate change is considered the biggest threat to global mental health’ according to research conducted into eco-anxiety. The good news is the study explains that individuals and communities show ‘resilience’ and ‘positive coping strategies’ which gives us hope that we can combat the risk to our mental health.
Hope for Gen Z
Inspirational activists like Greta Thunberg, whilst controversial, are highlighting the urgency for action in order to protect the future of the planet, for ourselves and future generations. Back in 2018 the 16 year old Swedish activist said: “Adults keep saying, we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic.” Despite these damning words, she gives hope to young adults and children worldwide. She demonstrates that we can take action to make change. Greta has raised the profile of the role young people can play in influencing governments, institutions and large corporations. If you want to learn more about Greta’s school strike against climate change, which has since spread to over 70 countries, have a listen to this podcast.
‘Does activism cure eco-anxiety’?
This was the question asked at a youth climate strike in the UK in 2020. International climate anxiety expert and psychotherapist Caroline Hickman who speaks about feelings like depression, grief, rage, sadness from the perceived lack of action by adults in response to the climate emergency. She speaks about the validity of these feelings. And the importance of building emotional resilience and building emotional intelligence to help prepare children and young adults or the future that we are inheriting.
How to increasing positivity and resilience
- Get yourself a houseplant. If you are prone to killing them off then try a succulent or cactus which are slightly easier. 🪴🌵
- Go meat-free one day a week or even stretch yourself to choose plant-based when you next eat out or get take-away.🥗🥡
- When traveling try to walk a bit, cycle or use public transport to reduce carbon emissions (and you’ll get those steps up – win-win!) 🚲🚶🏽
- When you need to calm your emotions, or you are in a busy and noisy environment, give yourself a more peaceful soundscape by listening to the ambient sounds in the free Earkick app such as rain or wind. 🎧
- And of course, talk to your friends! A problem shared is a problem halved. Chat about how you can raise awareness or make small wins in your own homes with the 5 R’s (Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Recycle) ♻️
- Measure your household’s carbon emissions effortlessly and switch to low carbon energy and eco-friendly products with this carbon footprint app 📲
- Own your voice and take your right to vote seriously in a democratic country to choose politicians who care about the climate 📣
If you find the anxiety becomes frequent, start writing down your thoughts in a journal and track your mood to ensure it doesn’t overwhelm you. Try voice noting or even video message yourself on Earkick!
For a long read: 📚
If you would like to learn more deeply about the net-zero transition, have a look at 6 articles collated by leading consultants McKinsey Sustainability. We also recommend reading about the climate action taken at the World Economic Forum at Davos 2022 in this article about safeguarding our planet and people. Or for a shorter, more accessible piece about Davos see this article in Bloomberg.
At Earkick we are building a free anxiety tracker to follow our great mission in order to make the wold a less anxious place.