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Surreal artwork by Amy Guidry showing effect of climate change on wildlife

Clearly the effects of climate change on human lives are impossible to ignore. We experience it daily, directly and through the media; how it affects every element of human living, from physical and mental health to global economic disruption. Through Climate change the number of people exposed to extreme incidents and, therefore, to subsequent psychological issues, such as worry, loss, grief, anxiety, depression, distress, trauma and even suicide increases. Mass migration and forced displacement increase homelessness and increased flooding destroys public infrastructure, disrupts transport, cuts off power and connectivity, and damages land used for agriculture and recreation. These impacts can lead to depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, even among those who were not personally affected.

 

Mindlessness is a function of automatic mental processing and leads to routine, stereotyped or primed behaviors. Many of us are not mindful about the daily actions that are unsustainable, such as not recycling, being aware of our water usage and throwing out food that accumulates inn landfills and produces greenhouse gases.

 

Mindfulness, on the other hand, promotes environmental sustainability. It helps individuals disengage from automatic thoughts and become more open to behavioral change and freedom to make different choices. Simple examples of mindful behaviors include using reusable bags and avoiding single use plastic, and using your purchasing power as a consumer to support companies with more sustainable practices.

 

The practice of mindfulness mediation with a focus on sustainability supports the understanding that mindfulness can be key to politically sensitizing people and organizations to the consequences of unquestioned structures, power relations and consumer behaviors. It helps people feel more closely connected to, and understand the impacts of, their own behavior on distant communities and on the environment overall. Understood in this way, mindfulness is no longer just a concept that only addresses cognitions and cognitive schemes, but also fosters a sense of person-environment connection.

Surealist image of Deer and Tree

Mindless consumption is passive consumption. Material consumption may stems from a feeling of impulsiveness, a psychological need for status or from boredom.and it can become a form of self-medication to soothe these feelings. Advertisements also play a critical role in materialism because they tell consumers that buying more means living a happier life.

 

 

Mindfulness improves subjective well-being, which in turn, is linked to higher self-esteem and greater satisfaction with life. By feeling content with oneself without seeking approval from others, a mindful person is less susceptible to marketing tactics, and does not consume to find fulfillment.

 

Our person health and sense of well being is likely to have an impact on how we view and approach sustainable behavior. For instance, stress, depression and physical pain make it harder to personally act on societal concerns such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, poverty and social inequalities; instead, attention is more likely to be drawn to salient personal problems, thus neglecting other concerns. If basic needs are not fulfilled, caring for the environment will almost always take second place.

 

Mindfulness approaches are based on compassion and positive emotion, unlike crisis approach or motivation by fear, which is often used in climate change communications. Positive and sustainable lifestyle changes stem from increased positive feelings and a connection to the natural world.

The above is based on 'Mindfulness and climate change: How being present can help our future' the full article with references can be found at https://www.apa.org/international/pi/2018/10/mindfulness-climate-change

Nicolas Lichtle surrealist picture 'Climate Change'

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