Could Mindfulness Help Save the World?
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“While the link between mindfulness, nature, and well-being is not concrete, research suggests an interrelationship between these three attributes. This research supports the sense of well-being and renewal I found from meditating in the garden, and perhaps why I sought the garden while taking a course in mindfulness practice.” – Joanna Shaw
The ability of humans to manipulate and control the environment has developed to the point that human activity is now threatening to destroy that environment. This can be seen in the rapid extinction of once thriving species, the loss of forestation, the historic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, sea level rise, and climate change. It has been argued that we may have crossed a tipping point where the environmental damage is irreversible. But, if we haven’t, there is a pressing need to address the very activities that are producing the damage. We need to begin acting more responsibly toward our environment in an attempt to reverse and heal the damage,
This will require actions by humans. This will require positive ecological behaviors. Ecological behavior is defined “as behaviors that protect/avoid harm to the environment and span all areas of life such as nutrition, mobility and transportation, energy and water consumption, waste avoidance, and consumerism.” In other words, humans need to change their behaviors toward more sustainable patterns.
Mindfulness promotes awareness of the internal and external environments. As such, it promotes sensitivity to these environments and to the impact of our actions on ourselves and the environment. In fact, mindfulness has been shown to be associated with the individual’s feelings of connectedness to nature. It is thus possible that mindfulness can stimulate ecological behavior and be a positive force for reversing the damage to our precious environment.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfully Green and Healthy: An Indirect Path from Mindfulness to Ecological Behavior.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02306/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_527044_69_Psycho_20180130_arts_A ), Geiger and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness with ecological behavior. They recruited participants from a University community including students, faculty, and staff and had them complete measures of mindfulness, health behaviors, and ecological behaviors. Health behaviors include “behaviors on nutrition, hygiene, stress recovery, risk prevention and physical exercise.” Ecological behaviors include “energy conservation, mobility, waste avoidance and recycling, consumerism, and vicarious, social behaviors toward conservation.”
Geiger and colleagues found that high levels of mindfulness were strongly related to high levels of health behaviors, but only moderately related to high levels of ecological behaviors, while health behaviors were strongly related to ecological behaviors. This suggests that mindfulness may be related directly and indirectly to ecological behaviors through the intermediary of health behavior. Indeed, an indirect effects analysis demonstrated exactly that, high levels of mindfulness were associated with high levels of ecological behaviors directly and also indirectly through mindfulness’ associations with health behaviors and in turn ecological behaviors.
This study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It will remain for future research to demonstrate that increasing mindfulness through mindfulness training increases ecological behaviors. Nevertheless, the study demonstrates clear and strong relationships between mindfulness and behaviors that tend to protect and develop the environment. This further suggests that mindfulness may be a key to saving the planet. Developing mindfulness in the population may lead to the development of sustainable action toward the environment and perhaps reversing the present damage.
So, start saving the planet with mindfulness.
“Nature and mindfulness inform each other in profound ways. They are both aligned. Nature can provide the same kind of calming, quieting effect, which is enormously therapeutic and joyous for me.” – Mark Tercek
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Geiger SM, Otto S and Schrader U (2018) Mindfully Green and Healthy: An Indirect Path from Mindfulness to Ecological Behavior. Front. Psychol. 8:2306. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02306
This paper examines the nature of the link between mindfulness and ecological behavior. Based on the notion that mindfulness incorporates heightened awareness of bodily sensations, we suggest an indirect path from mindfulness to ecological behavior that is mediated through individual health behavior, such as improved nutrition and increased exercise. This indirect path is corroborated with two online studies (n = 147/n = 239) where mindfulness, personal health behavior and ecological behavior were assessed. We conclude that increased mindful awareness of momentary experience indeed favors more healthy lifestyles, which in turn relate to increased ecological behavior beyond personal health benefits. The findings support an agreeableness of personal and planetary health behavior and open up a path for environmental educational interventions based on mindfulness practices and personal health gains.