Can you focus on personal wellness and save the planet?
Wellness is not just the absence of illness, it is the active process of making choices that support a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Leading an environmentally sustainable lifestyle means that we make choices that do not harm the environment, deplete natural resources or cause damage to the long term ecological balance of the planet.
The steps involved in achieving a state of wellness are not only compatible with an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, they form a critical part of the decisions we make. Wellness is about nourishing ourselves so we function at our optimal best; it is important to be aware that we can do this whilst being conscious of the impact we have on the environment in which we live. Sustainability involves creating a better world to inhabit and, more importantly, leaving the planet in a better position for the generations that will follow us. The environmental impact of the choices we make begins with an appreciation that we do not live in isolation, we are a part of something much bigger, the decisions we make can help to create harmony with our surroundings. Living a sustainable lifestyle is an extension of our personal wellbeing, as it establishes an integrated environmental wellness from which we all benefit.
Wellness is more than physical health. A positive mind fosters a positive connection with the world. The mind covers both emotional and spiritual wellness. Nourishing mental wellness and promoting spiritual wellbeing also benefits people we interact with. Studies have discovered that meditation makes us more compassionate, the more compassionate we become, the more mindful we are of our place in the world; this then reinforces the importance of positively protecting the planet. The benefit of spiritual wellness is more than psychological, the evidence suggests that there are practical and even financial benefits to looking after our mental wellbeing, which can be measured by how often we visit the doctor or take time off work through ill health.
Greenspace is valuable for both us as individuals and it is critically important mind to the environment. Wilderness greenspaces are used as vehicles for reflection, with people who spend time in greenspaces reporting notable improvement in their self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-image, self-confidence, self-empowerment and decision making. Engaging with the natural world also benefits individuals living with serious diseases such as dementia, by positively influencing eating and sleeping patterns, fitness and mobility and a general sense of well-being by reducing stress, agitation, anger, apathy and depression.
Looking after our physical wellbeing means looking after our bodies, to do this well we need to consider what we eat and drink, the products we use, the air we breathe and the type of exercise we take. Ultimately this means that it is impossible to separate our physical wellness from our surroundings. Intensive farming methods create pollution because of the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. These pollutants enter lakes, rivers, oceans and aquifers and can lead to a degradation of aquatic ecosystems. Intensive farming methods are also associated with the over use of medicines such as antibiotics, which is an unfortunate necessity because of the unnatural way in which the animals are reared and live. The resistance to antibiotics caused by overuse is a threat to the wellness of future generations because infections, which for decades have been easily treatable, will once again become deadly. The growth in the demand for organic products demonstrates that as the public become aware of the risks associated with mass produced food they are increasingly opting for sustainably farmed produce.
The power of us as consumers, to influence farming methods, should not be underestimated, ethical consumption contributes positively to the environment by providing a tangible and accessible means of positive action to consumers. By making choices that benefit our personal wellness, we are contributing to a sustainable lifestyle. Exercise is crucial to physical wellbeing. Exercising provides numerous opportunities to make choices that are compatible with leading an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Deciding to walk or cycle short journeys rather than driving, is a simple way to stay physically healthy whilst making choices that don’t cause harm to the planet.
Taking up hobbies like gardening, ‘the green gym’, are also good forms of exercise and can create havens for wildlife and promote insect populations that are in decline. It is clear for anyone who looks at our world to realise the extent that personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of the environment are intertwined.
Environmental wellness requires us to recognise the responsibility we all have for the health of our planet. Pollution surrounds us and it threatens our personal physical and mental wellness as much as it threatens the environment. Opting to: reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, products containing harmful chemicals, the demand of intensive farming and over processed food, is beneficial for our personal wellbeing and better for the planet. The appetite for greener consumption continues to grow alongside a climate where physical optimisation is achievable through a focus on wellness. There is something inherently nourishing for our mind and body about being aware of our potential impact on the wellbeing of the earth. By looking after ourselves, we look after the planet. Being the healthiest version of ourselves is the best way for us to lead an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.