In his New Year’s address, the pope called on Catholics (and I assume the rest of us can participate) to consider protecting the environment a personal responsibility as well as a political event. The Pope said, “An objective shared by all, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of overseeing the earth’s natural resources with justice and wisdom.”
If we don’t protect our planet and treat it as the sacred entity that supports life, we risk our own lives, we threaten humanity. Political decisions and legislation often brings about social changes. Copenhagen was a little more important than the Pope might wish to acknowledge. Yet, I also believe that change begins at home. Most of us wonder, what might living differently entail? How would it help me? What follows are three things anyone can do that will help the environment and support psychological health.
Eat Real Food at Home
Do the Michael Pollan thing and don’t take food for granted. Its status as the the most important element in human sustenance renders it rather sacred. Treat it that way. Don’t abuse it by overeating and don’t support its degradation by only purchasing processed food. If you prepare it and consume it with family and friends, you will feel less dissociated from what it is and more mindful of it as a resource that possesses some degree of integrity. You might find that sharing the preparing and cooking of meals will deepen your relationships. It might even help you know yourself better. Knowing what one consumes establishes a psychological pathway to awareness.
Buy Less Stuff: the story of a microwave
If might be bad for the old economy, but this is where the new economy is headed. Buy less and better stuff. In my experience many psychological problems are exacerbated by stuff. Anybody who is obsessive-compulsive understands the golden rule: the more you buy the more you need. Someone with whom I work, a typical busy, tired, slightly depressed man, rejoiced at the simplicity of his new microwave. But then, cooking became even harder and special microwave features were needed to cook even better meals. Those features required attachments, and so he had to buy a special drawer insert to be able to put the attachments away. Then the drawer became so full, he had to purchase a wheeled cabinet to hold everything. The cabinet scratched the floor and so my client needed to upgrade the kitchen flooring. It cost money that required more work which lessened time for his musical instrument practice which created more fatigue, stress and increased depression. This led him to consider buying more appliances to make life easier and taking anti-depressant medication. Sometimes doing things the old-fashioned hard way and relying on personal agency rather than stuff creates the energy that can ameliorate fatigue, stress and depression.
Turn off the TV and Listen
Watching less television helps the planet by using less of its energy and improves psychological health by utilizing more of people’s personal energy. Television induces passivity. Passivity worsens depression and anxiety. It overstimulates people with sensitive temperaments leading to problematic behavioral enactments. It also impairs the type of reflective processes that allow people to know who they are and make good choices for themselves. People who watch less television read more, engage in hobbies and talk more with others. Creating music, dance, art, woodwork, poetry, or whatever inspires connections with others; all of which induces generativity. Human generativity is the life force that binds people to their planetary home. Listen – to the birdsong, to wind brushing up against the leaves, to the melody in a child’s voice, to the beating of your own heart, to truth as it circles around your gut just waiting to be heard.
While the politicians are busy building the top down legislation and agreements, everyone can do their share from the ground up.