Mind and Body
A healthy environment has always been important for human health. We are dependent on clean air and water, nourishment and shelter in order to survive. It is easy to forget these basics in our busy, high-tech world. Climate change has consequences for human health, our health is dependent on the health of our planet. The good news here is that by making greener choices we can benefit both our own and our planet’s wellbeing.
Climate change can also affect our mental health as thinking about it can be a cause of anxiety. Making positive changes and taking action on our own or as part of a community may help to ease the worry and can make a difference to the environment too.
Consider the recommendations below in order to look after yourself as well as the planet.
Reduce Car Journeys
Consider every trip you make in the car and ask yourself if you could you do the same on foot or bike. Make the most of the new improved cycle paths. High-vis waterproof gear and pannier bags are good investments. Can you walk or cycle to the shop? A push/pull shopping trolley can be a good investment for bringing the shopping home. Could you cycle to work or walk the kids to school?
Cutting down on car trips will reduce carbon emissions and air pollution and will clock up those active minutes which are important for our health. As a guide, adults should aim to get at least 30 mins of moderate exercise everyday or 150 minutes a week; for kids, at least 60 minutes daily is recommended. Exercise can have far-reaching benefits to many aspects of health including reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis. Exercise also benefits mental health and can also improve brain function.
Outdoor exercise has extra benefits. From a physical point of view it can present natural challenges. For example, walking on sand can help train balance, hills and inclines can help build endurance and strength. Mentally, time spent in nature can be grounding and calming. Sensory experiences like sights, sounds or smells can help soothe the nervous system and bring about a sense of calm. Gardening can be a great way to exercise, spend time outdoors and connect with nature.
Less Meat, More Veg
A diet that includes more plant-based foods and less animal products is kinder to both human and planetary health. Agriculture occupies up to 40% of global land use, affecting water use, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Animal based food sources generally have a much higher environmental footprint, red meat in particular.
You can start by introducing one meat free day a week. Explore new plant based recipes and apps. Hummus is an easy recipe to start with! Plan your food ahead of time to avoid impulse buying. Make soups, stews and curries in bulk and freeze for later use. One plant based meal can then become two. Practice mindful eating; set the table, enjoy and appreciate each meal. Consider growing your own or investigate if there is a local community garden to join or even set one up!
Connect with Others
Taking action and making a difference, however small, can be very rewarding. Join a local group to share ideas or concerns and take collective action. Do a search on social media or online and see what groups are already in your local area. Find out about local campaigns in your area. Some common examples include: traffic reduction/planning, cycling campaigns, waste reduction, community gardens.
Connect with Nature
There can be many physical and psychological health benefits to spending time connecting with nature. Love of nature can help remind us why we need to act and protect our beautiful planet. Go for a walk regularly, be mindful, enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Stop to smell a rose, admire (and maybe even hug) a tree. If you have kids take them along and encourage them to enjoy, explore and wander in nature. You can also nurture some house plants, or enjoy some gardening.
Be Mindful, Practise Self-Care
Taking action and being mindful of the environment can be rewarding. Being aware of the challenges we face can also be stressful. It is very important to look after ourselves too. Make sure to set achievable goals and make small changes to get started. Keep a record of your actions and reward yourself.
Practice positive thinking, stay hopeful and be careful with what or who you allow to influence you. A healthy diet, sleep, exercise, connecting with others and with nature can all improve general well-being. Find what works best for your own wellbeing, be it yoga, music, art or mindfulness, and make time for it.
Contact your GP if you need specific advice or support.
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