A week long global climate strike has started today. It might seem odd to write about the environment on a therapist’s blog, but when it comes down to it our environment greatly influences our mental health and overall well-being. Also, I am an outdoor therapist so it makes sense.
I don’t want to get political about this. It shouldn’t be a political issue. There are indisputable facts showing that we’re damaging our home. I know not everyone is into facts these days, but even if you don’t like science, why wouldn’t you want to take the best care of where you live simply for the sake of caring about where you live?!
I mean, how many of you pump carbon dioxide into your house on a regular basis? Or just throw your trash in a corner of the room? Take a dump in the middle of your kitchen and leave it there? If you don’t do that, why not?
Some questions to ponder...
Our natural environment is as much our home as a house. More so actually. You can always get a new house if you had to. A new planet? The jury’s out on that one at the moment. Even so, to reiterate the above questions, why wouldn’t you take care of what you have?
No one vacations at trash dumps. No one swims in sewage filled streams. Why not? They don’t make us feel good! And everyone knows they’re bad for our health. We feel most alive and well near the ocean, in the mountains, running through open fields, free of trash and pollutants. We don’t even need science experiments to tell us that.
I grew up in a household with a deep appreciation for nature. Reduce, reuse, and recycle were probably some of my first words. Some of this was the result of not having much money, but a lot of it was out of respect for our ultimate home. Not having much money meant we had to be very mindful of what we purchased and what we consumed. After we used what we bought, we reused every little thing we possibly could. That probably sparked the creative side of me. You can make some cool ass stuff from plastic containers. What was leftover was usually recycled or composted to further our garden. Real Little House on the Prairie living there.
It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t even something we thought much about. We just did it. It was a natural way of life. And it’s stuck with me. Waste of any kind is a huge pet peeve of mine. I’m by no means perfect and frequently reassess how I live my life to be more in line with how much I value the environment. But I always try to do my best.
Now, I get that change is difficult. Oh boy, do I! It’s scary and hard to remember. Sometimes we rebel against it because it reminds us of our parents trying to tell us to do something “just because I say so.” Ultimately, though, that’s being incredibly willful when we know deep down something is in our best interest. We know it’s in our best interest because of how we feel in nature (Relaxed, calm, peaceful, rejuvenated, joyful, all those “good” emotions.). And for those of you who still think feelings are for females or wusses, feelings actually give us a lot of useful information.
We can’t eat, breathe, or drink money. So if we use up all our natural resources making things that make us money (and the money itself), money ceases to hold any value. And if we take it too far we cease to exist. And need money. So using a little logic here, it’s in our best interest to value air, water, and our other natural resources above money and all else.
How do we do this in a world in which consumerism and money are currently valued by the powers that be more highly than our environment? It can seem overwhelming.
Actually Get Into Nature
We can’t value something we don’t have experience with. Go out amongst the trees and grass and see for yourself how you feel. Also, make sure to give it a fair shot. Don’t be a nature Scrooge. If you already know how awesome nature is, spend as much time as you can in it. A little reminder never hurt. Plus it’s good for us.
Check out the research on the benefits of nature yourself. And the effects of pollutants on our environment. There’s a crap ton out there. Educate yourselves. It’s easier to ignore reality when you’re ignorant. Knowledge can be scary because with it comes responsibility, but there’s also a freedom in knowing the truth, accepting it, and taking whatever other actions we can.
In whatever way works for you. Talk to people about what you’ve learned and experienced. Listen to others share theirs. Really listen. With an open mind. Even to the haters. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives. We’re probably all a little wary of politicians at this point, but they’re still elected to represent the public so let them know what the public thinks. Join strikes, protests, and boycotts. Personally boycott things and companies that are harmful to the environment. Yes, you’re just one person but a lot of one persons add up.
Join local cleanup efforts. Become a member of groups centered around what you care about. It’s also a good way to make new friends if you need any of those. And If groups aren’t your thing, pick up trash on your own, reduce, reuse, and recycle your own stuff. Write about it.
Just Do a Little Better
Small efforts are better than no efforts. Throw trash where it’s supposed to go. Get a reusable coffee mug. Use reusable shopping bags. You don’t have to get crazy. Start small and build from there.
Taking care of your natural home really is in your own personal best interest. You’ll feel better. The people around you will feel better, which means they’ll probably treat you better, which means you’ll feel even better. That might lead to people wanting to give you things you want. Who knows. The cycle of positivity is endless.
Of course, you can continue on as is, ignoring reality. If money is worth that much to you and you’re willing to die for it, have at it. I know that might sound extreme and I’m not saying that to employ scare tactics. But the reality is that the health of our planet and ourselves is in extreme need of some tender, loving care. So which side do you want to be on?
This post is for informational purposes and not meant to be a replacement for professional mental health treatment.