If you think being environmentally conscientious makes you feel good—turns out that mental health professionals agree with you. In Katie O’reilly’s article for Sierra Club, “Mental Health Benefits of Going Green,” she asks some psychology experts to explain why and here are some insights:
- You get a greater sense of meaning and purpose when you are mindful of your resources (as in recycling containers or composting food waste), points out Dr. Jared Scherz, a NJ therapist who says this “sense of worth” becomes the “best antidote” to anxiety and depression. Scherz also says that spending time outside in nature helps us develop our ability to better listen to our bodies’ needs, so we make healthier choices. When we witness “the fortitude and resiliency of nature,” we find it easier to connect to those qualities within our own bodies.
- The connections we establish by being in nature helps combat the feeling of isolation. Jodi Aman, a Rochester, NY psychotherapist takes patients to lie down on the earth, try edible wild plants, and hug trees, so “when [they] see things from a larger point of view, [their] small problems don’t seem so bad.”
- When you make efforts to benefit the planet, like bicycling, growing your own vegetables, or saving rainwater, you gain self-trust. “Doing something to care for the earth helps you feel more cared for,” says Rachel Kazez, a Chicago licensed clinical social worker, and she explains further, “You’re seeing how you’re a piece of the puzzle—that because you interact with the ecosystem, you’re important to that system.”
- Doing something to help the environment will help us better accept complexities involved in larger issues. Kazez goes on about the benefits of confronting the ‘drop in the bucket’ fear we may have about the possible insignificance of our small actions in the big scheme: “when you do something to help nature, you have to confront that am I patching a sinking ship? worry,” but in the process, you see the nuances, and “learn to better live with ambiguity, to acknowledge problems, and to do what you can to address them.”
As is true with nature’s connection to our emotional well-being, could it be possible that if our investments are attuned to encouraging a better stewardship of our assets, this would affect our mental health in a positive way? Companies whose policies allow our natural environment to maintain its healing properties, respect individual humanity and prosperity through the products or services they provide, may make us feel connected to the larger society and the goodness it can generate. Through our investments in these companies, we take on their accomplishments. This boosts our confidence and therefore it improves our mental health. To know your money is helping improve the lives of others, whether through loaning to a company that hires more workers or buying stock in a company whose products or services you love, may allow those endorphins to flow!