Empowered action and well being in environmental crises

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Feeling ok, let alone good, in the face of so much turmoil in the world can feel impossible. I've noticed feeling especially impacted recently by hearing in detail about how human activity over the last century has massively impacted the global climate, creating extreme and often destructive weather conditions and causing a frightening decline in insect populations and the degradation of many different ecosystems. The multitude and complexity of these stories can understandably cause deep fear and even panic; it can feel like just too much to keep paying attention to it all. As I’ve said in a previous post (choose your focus...), I think it is essential for our well being that we self-regulate our exposure to the barrage of negative news stories so that we can minimise overwhelm because when we feel overwhelmed, we are unable to take action and can end up feeling more depressed and anxious. At the same time, environmental issues are ignored by us and our governments at our and our children’s peril. Climate change, plastic pollution, species extinction, extreme weather events are real and they are happening now, not in some projected future a safe distance away from us. I believe we must find ways to face these challenges while maintaining hope and motivation to make both big and small changes. 

Its the small changes I have been pondering in recent days. Because I spend a lot of time litter picking, mostly on my local beach either alone or with others, I keep thinking about how most of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic (from sloactive.com) were originally used by individual people before being systematically disposed of in such a way as to end up in the sea by various means. I can’t help thinking that every individual choice adds up to either more or less plastic in the sea over time; every person choosing to pick up litter instead of ignoring it contributes to less litter. It also feels good to do something alongside others because it is so easy to feel alone and disempowered in the face of what we see happening in our world. I know from my own experience how even picking up a few bits of litter as part of my daily activity feels like I am making a conscious choice to love instead of fear, which contributes to more love and less fear in the world.

With this in mind I wanted to share some ideas on small actions that can contribute to reducing carbon emissions and plastic waste, supporting wildlife and help you feel part of a local and global community, which can all increase well being.

Find out what’s happening in your neighbourhood re clean-ups, local energy initiatives or nature conservation. Getting involved is a great way to meet other lovely people, to learn and to feel connected with your local community. Consider starting something with some friends or family if nothing seems to be happening already!

Cultivate a personal connection with planet earth; our bodies are made of the same stuff as the earth and it has actually been proven that touching our skin to earth’s surface, called grounding or earthing, has health benefits: walk barefoot in a park or garden; make a point of noticing the trees, plants, invertebrates and bird life near your home or workplace; walk for part of your journey to work or the shops, noticing the air you breathe. If you are in a city, visit a park as often as you can; notice how doing any of these things makes you feel.

If you like take away drinks, carry a reusable drinking container and give up using single use plastic bottles and cups. Consider staying in the cafe and relaxing for a change! check out more ways to reduce plastic waste here.

Challenge yourself to be aware of the packaging you buy with your food and drink and try to reduce it; for example, buy loose fruit and veg and carry in your own reusable bag; buy drinks in glass instead of plastic; use bars of soap instead of shower gels and liquid hand soaps; bring a homemade lunch or snack in reusable containers to work with the added benefit that its likely to be healthier; reduce consumption of crisps and other ‘packet’ snacks.

When you see rubbish anywhere on the pavement, pick it up, unless it is obviously unhygienic (do not put your health at risk!). It will make a huge difference if we all pick up some of the bits of rubbish that we typically walk over in the course of a day. 

Create spaces around your home and/or garden for wildlife, from a few pots of wildflowers on a balcony, to homemade bug hotels, bird houses and feeders, hedgehog highways, bucket ponds and compost heaps in the garden. If you have no access to outdoor space you could think about what outdoor spaces you do have access to and consider how you might improve that space in collaboration with neighbours or even your local authority.

Reduce car use by walking, cycling, car pooling, or using public transport. Incorporating walking or cycling into your travel not only reduces air pollution, but also helps you slow down and get some exercise, both of which are known to increase well being.

Get creative and think about other ways you might enjoy making a difference and share them with your community, family and the children or young people in your life.

Remember to enjoy whatever you are doing as much as possible!

Ultimately, we also need our governments on board to make the big changes that will stop the flows of plastic and carbon emissions at source and put stronger measures in place to prioritise protecting our ecosystems. Governments are made up of individual humans and can also be pressured into action by groups of individuals, so I think starting small is a good first step. We really can all do ‘our bit’ through the seemingly small choices we make every day and I promise you, doing anything you feel able to do is better than feeling frozen in anxious powerlessness.

Marybeth Haas

Integrative Arts Psychotherapist

Marybeth's work aims to facilitate clients to learn about themselves and why they do what they do the way they do it; to help clients become more aware of their choices in every moment in how they respond to life and other people; to foster awareness of our innate connection with Source and Nature, experienced through our bodies; to empower clients to choose to live fully in the Present instead of being lost in thinking and worrying about past or future. Many things can get in the way of our feeling able to be present and fulfill our true potential. Self beliefs and assumptions about life can be mostly unconscious (we don't know we have them but they inform every choice we make), having been learned from our early experiences in our family, culture and environment. If these beliefs and assumptions remain unconscious they rule our lives without our knowing it and we may wonder why we repeat negative patterns or why it feels difficult to feel content and peaceful inside ourselves. By having a safe, confidential, non-judgmental space with a qualified Psychotherapist to explore your experience through talking and/or image making, you can process any past pain and trauma so you are more free to live in the present and you can discover any limiting self beliefs based on things in the past so you can have more freedom to choose how you respond to life as it is NOW. I have worked in a variety of public service settings over the last 11 years, including bereavement support, family and parenting support, older peoples' mental health and sexual abuse support. I have worked with both adults and children with a wide variety of issues including experiencing domestic violence, sexual abuse, depression, anxiety and bereavement. I am currently interested in the transpersonal aspects of psychotherapy as taught by CJ Jung and the field of eco psychology. I can help you work with your dreams as well as to explore what it means to be a fully alive and conscious human being in context with Earth and all other beings, fulfilling your greatest potential.