As the threat to life on Earth caused by human-driven climate change grows, many of us are left wondering what we can do to reverse this troubling trend. Typical solutions focus on reducing our carbon footprint and waste. But there’s something else we can be doing.
Our global environmental woes result from the totality of human suffering. Our unending desire and obsession with eternity have us in direct conflict with the true nature of things, which is impermanence, interconnectivity, and interdependence.
Ultimately, to solve our environmental crisis, we must work to understand and eliminate our own suffering. From there, we can find peace with ourselves, and this will allow us to better care for the only home we’ve ever known.
Here are five tips to combine wellness and sustainability
Eat local, real, sustainable food
Our current agricultural system is not sustainable. It depends heavily on fossil fuels and chemicals, and this is causing the world’s farmland to go to waste at alarming rates.
By changing some of our dietary habits to include more fresh, real food, we’d be doing a favor to both ourselves and the environment. We’d be reducing our dependence on factory-made, processed foods, and we’d also be supporting initiatives to reshape food systems in the name of sustainability.
Fresh produce is better for you, too. It offers a good blend of macro and micro nutrients and helps fend off diseases and promote good digestion. This is a very tangible defense against suffering.
We are what we eat, so it’s important we produce and consume food in a manner reflective of the types of societies we want to build.
Make more time for creativity
So much of what we do revolves around the production or consumption of material things. This not only creates tremendous waste, but it has also made it harder for people to find happiness. The joy we get from acquiring a material thing is fleeting, for it’s the desire for the thing that drives us. Once we acquire it, we begin to desire something else.
To be happier, we must recognize that happiness comes when we break this cycle of desire and instead choose to live with gratitude for what we have in the present moment.
And creative expression is a great way to do this. We need very little to paint, play music or write, but when we engage in these activities, we share ourselves in a unique way. We stop making comparisons to others and instead accept ourselves for who we are, helping us achieve peace with ourselves and the world around us.
This perspective is critical to reducing environmental impact. Needing and wanting less things makes us happier, and it makes it easier to leave what precious resources we have where they belong.
Do more exercise
Humans are living things—Children of Nature, just like everything else. However, in our high-tech, fast-paced lives, this reality is hard to see.
Exercise puts us in touch with the Life inside us. It forces us to listen to our bodies, become more in-tune with our energy, and also to have more patience with ourselves.
But don’t confuse exercise with grueling workouts. Although these can be great, lower-energy activities, such as yoga, walking and swimming, are wonderful opportunities to slow down and enjoy the life we’re living. Focus on your breathing. Listen to your body. It will tell you things you’ve always known but never believed.
Mindful exercise is a useful way to improve overall wellness, and it also teaches us about the true Nature of things and the causes of our own suffering
Research suggests meditation can have significant health benefits, ranging from less stress and anxiety to improved memory and concentration. This makes sense. Its purpose is to calm you, to get you to exist in the present moment, and to see things for how they truly are.
Meditation also reveals the impermanent nature of things. Thoughts and feelings come and go, no matter if we engage with them or not. And the practice also gives us the chance to see the interconnectivity and interdependence of all things. Our actions as individuals do have an impact, no matter how small. It’s important we never forget this.
Seeing and accepting these truths is important for understanding and weeding out suffering. If the whole world were to meditate more, our lives would be happier, healthier, and more sustainable.
It’s easy to think our actions don’t matter. Who cares if you have an extra piece of cake for desert? Or if you throw your plastic in the garbage instead of the recycling? In that exact moment, maybe no one. But later on, when you don’t feel well, or when you see images of all the plastic accumulating in the Pacific Ocean, you’ll realize your error and feel bad.
The assumption that what we do doesn’t matter is a tremendous source of suffering because it’s simply not true. We can’t always see the impact we’re having in the moment, but if we zoom out our awareness, our role as creators of the world around us becomes obvious.
Embracing this concept allows us to make better decisions for ourselves, but if we apply a global perspective, it also allows us to make better decisions for the entire world.
Little things have a big impact
It’s true climate change and sustainability are global problems, but they can and must be solved locally. Mindfulness and present moment awareness help us better understand our suffering so that we can address it and live in better harmony with ourselves and Nature.