When did you last think about helping the environment? June 5 is World Environment Day (WED). This awareness day encourages people around the world to participate in activities that benefit the environment. The theme this year is to focus on reducing food waste: “Think.Eat.Save.”
Although at first glance helping the environment appears to just be a step toward keeping our big home functional, there is more at stake. Being connected with the environment, and living in a healthy environment can impact general health and specifically mental health.
Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, said in an email that although one day of involvement with the environment won’t necessarily have a great impact on mental health, it can introduce people to the importance of nature.
“We are a world that is largely becoming disconnected from the world we live in,” Durvasula said.
“Automation, disposability and technology have made the environment something we ‘use’ rather than ‘partner with,’ and that is a real parallel for the isolation many struggling with mental health and mental illness also struggle with.”
Taking care of your environment might also demonstrate how you take care of yourself.
“Respect for environment often emanates from a respect for self,” she said.
“When we are more connected with our world, spend more time outdoors or attending to our environments, and connect with others (we are after all a social species and social support can very much help with mental health), then this can only have good benefits.”
“In addition, there is evidence that being outdoors can have implications for overall better health,” she added.
Even just participating in a cause like “saving the environment” can lead to positive mental health effects.
“It can infuse someone with a sense of meaning and purpose,” Durvasula said.
“When we can get out of our heads and connect with something larger than us, feel a sense of belonging, connection and investment and see our actions result in something good, it can do wonders for our sense of well-being.”