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Nurturing Wellbeing In An Age of Eco-anxiety


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April 16, 2024

In recent years, a growing body of research has shed light on a concerning trend: eco-anxiety. This term describes the psychological distress and anxiety individuals experience in response to environmental issues such as climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. As we look deeper into understanding the interconnectedness of our actions and the health of the planet, it's becoming increasingly clear that eco-anxiety is not only prevalent but also has profound mental health implications for individuals and the well-being of communities.

A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal highlights the significant impact of eco-anxiety on mental health. It emphasises that climate change-related events, such as extreme weather events or natural disasters, can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions and contribute to the development of anxiety and depression. Young people are feeling helpless, exhibiting emotions of worry, fear, anger, grief, despair, guilt, and shame showing the urgent need for addressing eco-anxiety as a public health concern.

Further to that, research from the Woodland Trust reveals the burden of eco-anxiety on young people. The study found that access to green spaces plays a crucial role in alleviating eco-anxiety among youth. However, with urbanisation and habitat destruction, many young people lack opportunities to connect with nature, further increasing their distress. It identified that although one in three young people (16 – 24 years old) are scared, sad, or pessimistic about climate change, 86% of those surveyed found that being out amongst nature had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing.  

This figure is our beacon of hope – it shows the healing power of nature. Studies have consistently shown that spending time in natural environments can have huge profound positive effects on mental health and wellbeing. Research published in Science Direct emphasises the therapeutic benefits of nature-based interventions, including reduced stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive function.

“These scholars demonstrate that one of the important determinants of wellbeing is the relationship between nature and human beings and that explorations of this relationship can provide a greater understanding of how to improve wellbeing. Research has shown that individuals who have higher nature connection tend to have greater wellbeing (Pritchard et al., 2020, Schwarzmüller-Erber et al., 2020, Zelenski and Nisbet, 2014).”  

-Science Direct  

Nurturing a deep connection with nature is essential for combating eco-anxiety and promoting overall wellbeing. There are several ways we can do this:

- Spend time outdoors

Make a conscious effort to spend time in natural settings, whether it's a local park, forest, or beach. Take part in activities like hiking, gardening, or simply immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of nature.

- Practice  mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your outdoor experiences, such as mindful walking or nature meditation. Pay attention to the natural world around you and savour the present moment. Look for details in nature, a small bug, new shoots in spring, details in moss on a tree.

- Support conservation efforts

Get involved in conservation initiatives within your community or support organisations working to protect natural habitats and biodiversity. This can give a sense of empowerment and purpose against environmental challenges.

- Limit exposure to media

While staying informed about environmental issues is important, exposure to negative news can contribute to feelings of eco-anxiety. Set boundaries around your media consumption and choose those that offer positive solutions and hope.

- Connect with others

Seek support from friends, family, or communities who share your concerns about the environment. Meaningful conversations and action together can help alleviate feelings of isolation and despair. 

All the evidence shows that nature connection is positively associated with psychological wellbeing, positive environmental behaviour and increased volunteering with conservation organisations.

The Taking Action Together Assembly on April 20th 2024 will be showcasing a ‘Hope, resilience and wellbeing’ spotlight room. Here we will host a variety of experts in this field exploring topics such as:

- Having hope – an essential ingredient for creating more resilient communities and inspiring change

- How we can sustain our activism long term

- Learning how to process our complex thoughts and feelings about environmental issues

- Why and how community groups and schools can create positive action

Booking is essential - join us on the day by booking your ticket here.

By Rowena Mynott