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Dealing with Eco-Anxiety: the Rise of Sustainable and Mindful Technologies

By Shanum Dewan


What is Eco-Anxiety?

To put simply, eco-anxiety is defined as chronic fear of environmental doom; a worry for what might happen if the world does not take action to avert climate disaster in time , impacting anyone. However, it is increasingly prevalent among younger generations. Although eco-anxiety negatively impacts emotional wellbeing, it is not yet deemed as a mental illness, primarily due to absence of evidence-based research, alongside the inability to meet the Mental Health Disorder criteria, depicted by the World Health Organisation in the 11th edition of International Classification of Diseases: disturbances are usually associated with distress or impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupation or other important areas of functioning.


Depiction of Eco-Anxiety (Source: BBC News )

How do we know Eco-Anxiety exists?

Heatwaves, wildfires, cyclones, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and tidal waves are examples of natural disasters that have given rise to long-term chronic stress, depression, grief, feeling of loss, tension in social relations, substance abuse and increase in diagnosis of PTSD. Despite eco-anxiety being a modern concept, the Lancet published research on Solastalgia: a set of psychological disorders that occur in a native population following destructive changes in their territory that has had direct and immediate impacts to livelihoods. Whereas, eco-anxiety is a generalized term, associated with environmental coverage in broadcast, and social media platforms.


Some people are more susceptible to experiencing eco-anxiety than others, whether revolving around social, economic and political factors. The majority of the population unconsciously experiences eco-anxiety daily. Putting this into perspective, nearly half (43 per cent) of people living in London, the East and Southeast of England reported a high level of fear regarding climate change, compared to 38 per cent those living in the North and the Midlands. When interpreting a multitude of reasons emerge, for example the relationship between topography and urbanization, the East and Southeast of the UK are composed of sedimentary rock, supporting establishment of new infrastructure, attracting employment and education opportunities, thus increasing the county’s population and enlarging mass consumption. In this scenario, the Multiplier Effect has a positive impact on the standard of living, but compensates for sustaining the environment.


What strategies can I implement to deal with Eco-Anxiety?

Eco-anxiety has become an international concern, so you’re not alone in finding solutions and dealing with eco-anxiety. Below are a few strategies you can apply to your lifestyle and improve attitude towards sustainability and mindfulness.


  • Manage your Newsfeed: Florida State University conducted a study in 2015, amongst a sample of students sitting an exam that required sustained attention, any audience phone interruption had negatively impacted their results. Frequently, excessive media consumption can stimulate people to have overwhelming concerns about the smallest of things and trigger unnecessary anxiety; therefore, ensuring notifications are turned off social media accounts, or websites that exert negative influence on your mental health are favorable. Thus, developing proactivity in finding or elearning new information, providing a clearer perspective on the matter.


  • Finding a green space: Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy and creativity and can facilitate concentration . Finding a space, whether that be the local park, your garden or simply looking outside the window every often is an attributional reminder of the environment surrounding you. Developments in research, portray a positive correlation between interaction with nature and reducing heart rate, blood pressure and perceived stress. In a contemporary society where productivity and mass consumption are correlative, having a growth mindset and positive attitude equates to the impact of contributing positively to the environment.

  • Writing down how you feel: Journalling or writing down how you feel provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors. In fact, an experimental study conducted at Michigan State University revealed that expressive writing can help our brain “cool down” in the state of worrying. Recently, teenager Shanum Dewan has developed a mental health and sustainability based small business Bloomin' Minds, selling mindfulness seeded cards, allowing customers to write their thoughts, plant the paper and watch it bloom into a flower; simultaneously bringing the gap in accessing sustainable and mindful products. The business is one of many that finds innovative solutions to promote afforestation and biodiversity, benefiting both the environment and the population.

Handmade mindfulness seeded cards by Bloomin’ Minds (Source: Bloomin’ Minds Instagram)


As eco-anxiety becomes a growing concern internationally, advancements in sustainable technology and a growing shift towards a sustainable lifestyle has assisted in reducing environmental impact.


Sources

  1. Benefits of Journaling: The Science and Philosophy Behind Keeping a Diary. (2023, 01 01). Intelligent Change. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.intelligentchange.com/blogs/read/benefits-of-journaling

  2. Eco-anxiety, Solastalgia and Fear of Climate Change. (2022, 01 01). Iberdrola. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.iberdrola.com/social-commitment/what-is-ecoanxiety

  3. ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics. (2023, 01 01). ICD-11. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http%3a%2f%2fid.who.int%2ficd%2fentity%2f334423054

  4. Journaling for Mental Health - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center. (2022, 1 1). URMC. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

  5. Nature: How connecting with nature benefits our mental health. (2022, 01 01). Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/nature-how-connecting-nature-benefits-our-mental-health

  6. University of York. (2021, November 2). Survey reveals eco-anxiety over climate crisis - News and events. University of York. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2021/research/climate-survey-cop/

  7. Wright, S., & Osterloff, E. (2023, 05 07). Eco-anxiety: how to cope at a time of climate crisis. Natural History Museum. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-to-cope-with-eco-anxiety.html




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