Why does being green feel good?
There’s a quote, (of course there is!) often attributed to Mark Twain, that reveals "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Many of us question our purpose, it’s been the core thread of self-help books, quizzes, Venn diagrams, Ted talks, and yes, this blog post.
The answer to life, universe and everything was superbly and eclectically answered by the supercomputer Deep Thought after seven million years of contemplation in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in five parts by author Douglas Adams. However that hasn’t stopped people searching for an alternative to 42. Actually, the answer to the meaning of life is being environmentally friendly. But why?
In the UK we seem to be obsessed with recycling. However, recycling doesn’t make sense, from an efficiency perspective. It is so much easier to just dump everything into the general waste bin - it seems nonsensical for people to bother sorting it. But research has shown that putting in the extra effort elicits positive emotions - we feel better about ourselves for doing the right thing for the right reason. This echoes Aristotle’s concept of achieving eudaemonic happiness by living a virtuous life. Even more research shows that doing something meaningful gives us purpose and that happiness does indeed come from doing good things. So the real reason we love recycling is because it makes us feel awesome.
OK great well that only took three paragraphs to find out the secret to being happy, life, universe, everything etc. A little quicker than seven million years! So how do you develop this super fun new joyous life? Well there’s so much more to eco happiness than sorting out your plastics from your cardboard. Let’s take a look at some suggestions.
1. Go Wild.
Taking your life outdoors and into nature is an excellent way to connect with your environment and feel wonderful for doing so. And yes, there’s science that confirms that being in a greenery can make you feel better. People who spent more than two hours in nature a week were found to have “consistently higher levels of health and well being” compared to those who didn’t. This concept has been coined as ‘nature therapy’. One way of relaxing that is often achieved through forest bathing, being quiet and breathing deeply in a woody spot. You may have more luck with finding outdoor walking groups, nature talks, wild swimmer clubs, birdwatching troops or al fresco exercise classes. Alternatively you can keep an eye out for volunteering with wildlife or in conservation projects near you.
2. Propagate, Germinate, Vegetate.
Growing or picking your own food is not only super sustainable it’s also very satisfying. You might not have the time or space to create a whole farm but you can start with planting salad leaves or herbs in a window box or small cold frame. Alternatively you could go all in with an allotment or convert your garden into an agricultural paradise. There are also community food growing projects you can join in with which is a nice way to connect with others. There are many free foods and if you know what you are looking for then foraging could be the new hobby you are looking for - be sure to be careful with what you pick and consult an expert or join a group for advice. Eating something you have cultivated or sourced yourself is one step closer to feeling good by being green.
3. Rubbish Walks.
Getting out and tidying up the things folks leave behind is a great way to feel good by being green. You find other people who also enjoy a jolly good clean up plus it's very satisfying because you can literally see the difference. It's very aesthetically pleasing! Volunteers have reported that the combination of fresh air, exercise, connecting with your community and having pride in where they live boosts their morale and gives them a sense of purpose. Grab a litter picker and start bagging that trash!
4. Go on a Low Carbon Diet
Reducing your carbon footprint is as addictive as opium and decreasing your climate impact is as satisfying as winning the lottery*. It’s not easy, but there are calculators you can use to find out how big your emissions are per year, usually expressed in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Once you have that starting figure then choose your target e.g. lose one tonne in a year, and start working on some actions to make that happen the carbon pounds start falling off quite quickly. This can be easy for some to do all by themselves, but if you need some extra support then contact me for Carbon Literacy training or coaching sessions. As a personal trainer for your environmental impact I will get you into shape quick-smart in a fun, achievable way. If you want to know more about sustainability coaching