NEWS

Can Participating in Earth Hour Help Your Mental Health?

drawing of people hanging out on their front lawns at dusk

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Key Takeaways

  • The last Saturday of March is Earth Hour, a time to shut off your lights and take a stand against climate change
  • This can be done alone, with loved ones, at a scheduled event, or virtually.
  • Taking a break can help with climate anxiety and general distress.

Have you ever wanted to turn off for a little while and simply be? In such a busy world, it’s easy to crave moments of tranquility away from the bustle of life and constant bombardment of notifications. Well, this Saturday, March 26, offers a perfect excuse to go for it, an event known as Earth Hour. The idea is simple: On the last Saturday in March, people are invited to turn off their lights from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm and do anything they want—whether it be a dance party, a game with loved ones, or sit and stargaze. 

The idea started in 2007 when people in Sydney, Australia were looking for a way to tell their climate-skeptic government that they found climate change worrisome. That first year, over 2.2 million people participated in the area. Last year, people across 192 countries celebrated Earth Hour, with many joining digital events. This Saturday, people can participate alone, virtually, or in person at a local event

Taking part in Earth Hour can help with the fight against climate change and give your mental health a boost — only in part because of climate anxiety.

“The benefit of earth hour is by being more intentional with our actions so we can be more deliberate about non-essential energy consumption,” says Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City. “While earth hour might not make a significant impact on greenhouse gasses or reduce our ecological footprint, it creates space for active reflection about how our everyday behaviors can help improve the planet.” 

This time is also an excellent opportunity to look inward, see what’s on your mind, and step back from stressors.

Benefits of Collective Action 

Purposely taking this time to shut off alongside so many others can create a deep sense of community and understanding.

“Collective action can strengthen resilience towards feeling hopeless or helpless. At the heart of collective action is a beautiful demonstration of community where like-minded individuals are reminded they are not alone in their passionate movement,” says Gretchen Boehm, a licensed therapist in the Frame Community, children’s author, and practice owner of Growth In Stride LLC.

“Individuals have a need to feel connected, capable, that they count and have courage to overcome barriers. Cultivating these values can build a sense of security within oneself and interpersonal relationships.”

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

The benefit of earth hour is by being more intentional with our actions so we can be more deliberate about non-essential energy consumption.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Trying to find a way to combat a problem as massive as climate change can feel utterly overwhelming.

Instead of spiraling into deep climate anxiety, coming together to fight this common issue can provide a place to channel this distress, adds Romanoff. It can also bring a sense of inspiration and support. 

Integrating This Break Into Your Life

If you participate in Earth Hour and see a difference, it doesn’t have to be a once-a-year thing. There are ways to integrate it further into your life from a climate change and mental perspective. 

Gretchen Boehm, LPC

Collective action can strengthen resilience towards feeling hopeless or helpless. At the heart of collective action is a beautiful demonstration of community where like-minded individuals are reminded they are not alone in their passionate movement.

— Gretchen Boehm, LPC

Boehm recommends determining what triggers poor mental health — such as watching the news — and actively doing the opposite action. She also suggests trying other nurturing activities during this hour break, such as:

  • Exercise
  • Calling a friend
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Volunteering
  • Staying off social media
  • Gardening
  • Taking a nature walk

Overall, pick parts of your day to reduce energy consumption. As Romanoff says, “Be more mindful with how you consume non-essential electricity, be more present in your life, and try not to fill in the quiet areas of your life with unnecessary stimulation.”

What This Means For You

If you're interested in participating in Earth Hour, ask your loved ones or search for an event taking place near you.

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