by Grace Egbe
When we think of living sustainable lifestyles, we mainly consider sustainability through a consumerist lens.
“I should buy an energy-efficient car.”
“I love thrifting and buying second-hand!”
“Which brand has the best reusable water bottles?”
“How can I buy more sustainably?”
Whether we’re trying to spend money on more eco-friendly alternatives or start home DIY projects to replace what we’d normally buy, living a “sustainable lifestyle” often revolves on how we spend (or don’t spend) our money. But sustainability is so much more than just our habits as consumers. Sustainability involves how we behave in all aspects of our lives.
Cultivating a sustainable life must also include prioritizing our mental and physical health as well. By doing so, we achieve the balance and stability essential for showing up and participating fully in our communities as advocates for the planet and its inhabitants.
Looking after our mental health in particular is extremely important in creating the emotional space and availability needed to realize these goals. And so, our sustainability dialogues with ourselves should also incorporate discussions on our mental wellness too.
“I should take more breaks –I don’t want to burn out.”
“Sure, I’ll invest in 10 minutes to journal everyday.”
“Which meditation app will be the best for unwinding after a busy week?”
“How can I maintain my mental wellbeing?”
This Unwind Friday we’re focusing on 3 healthy habits we can adopt (and 3 unhealthy ones we can let go of) to maintain our mental wellbeing and achieve well-balanced sustainable lifestyles in 2022.
1. Do things you love
Pursuing a hobby does wonders for your mental health. According to headtohealth.gov.au, research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low moods, and depression. By taking time for yourself to enjoy and nurture a hobby, you’re able to recharge and feel better prepared to take on what life sends your way.
So tap into your inner child and pursue something that brings you joy! Paint in the park, make some pottery, go for a hike, or bake some cookies –whatever it is, activities that get you out and about can make you feel happier and more relaxed.
TIP: Set aside time each week dedicated to doing something solely for your enjoyment
- treat yourself to a meal from your favorite restaurant or dessert spot
- take a dance class
- color in an adult coloring book
- join a book club
PRO TIP: If your weekly phone activity report consistently averages to a high amount of hours per day, challenge yourself to explore a hobby or relaxing activity to unwind instead of mindlessly scrolling on social media.
2. Regular self check-ins
If you’ve already started your sustainability journey, you’re most likely already more preoccupied with how you can help and be there for others than how you can do so for yourself. This leads to often checking in on those around us and neglecting our own needs.
But checking in regularly with yourself can’t be overlooked; regular check-ins improve and regulate your mood, energy levels, relationships, and productivity.
TIP: Begin daily or weekly journaling to reflect on your current state of mind and any changes in your mood.
- Journaling helps you…
- Track any feelings day-to-day so to better recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
- Reprioritize problems, fears, and concerns
- Provide an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors
PRO TIP: If you feel a negative emotion brewing (e.g. anger, frustration, unease), take a moment to breathe and ground yourself, then identify why you’re feeling this way and, if you’re having trouble immediately soothing your tension, make a mental note to revisit and explore this later (i.e. through journaling). By doing this, you allow unfavorable emotions to pass through your system, preventing them from settling in and becoming longer-term moods which are harder to break out of.
3. Foster Connection
Ever feel that post hang-out high after spending time with your friends for a few hours? Well, according to an article from the The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical wellbeing, which explains why you feel so good even after seeing your favorite people.
Low levels of social connection are associated with declines in physical and psychological health; so, although we all love our “me” time (which is definitely still important!), make an effort to invest in “we” time as well.
TIP: Reach out to the people you already know (i.e. co-workers, family, school friends, neighbors) & let them know you would like to be in touch more often –then make some plans!
- You can…
- share a meal
- go to a concert together
- take a class together (pottery, cooking, etc)
- go to the movies
- plan a road trip!
PRO TIP: When you’re feeling low and want to hide away in your bed all day, try reaching out to and spending quality time with one or two friends to lift your spirits.
Sustainability is often synonymous to slow fashion –but this relationship isn’t as simple as you think. Slow fashion is not only being conscious and thoughtful when you shop; it is also being so for all areas of your life –taking care of ourselves is taking care of the planet.
Consistently looking after our mental wellbeing can sometimes feel daunting and unattainable, especially with our hectic lives. But by slowly implementing healthy habits like these in our routines we’ll be able to balance the hustle and bustle of life and be better equipped to take on the responsibilities of truly living sustainably.
So go bake some cookies –it’s good for the environment!