Mental Health News Climate Anxiety How Helping the Environment Can Make You Feel Better By Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl is a clinical social worker who focuses on mental health disparities, the healing of generational trauma, and depth psychotherapy. Learn about our editorial process Published on May 25, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD Medically reviewed by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD LinkedIn Twitter Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Monty Rakusen / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Why Helping the Environment Is Important Overall Benefits Mental Health Benefits Physical Health Benefits Why It's Good to Get Outside How to Help the Environment Climate change is a threat significantly impacting each of us, with the perils of our declining environment becoming more and more unsettling by the day. If you’re feeling guilt, anxiety, sadness, and anger about earth changes, you certainly aren’t alone. The answer isn't to avoid the natural world. Rather, it is to go towards it. Connecting to the environment can help decrease stress and increase your mental health. This article will explore why helping the environment is important, the benefits of caring for our shared land, and ways you can get involved. What Is Forest Bathing? Why Helping the Environment Is Important Climate change has reached an unprecedented point of peril. We are globally experiencing rising temperatures, widespread droughts, and intense natural disasters, all signs of our overburdened environment. Climate change isn’t an individual issue—it is a collective issue that impacts each of us. When we all do our part in helping the environment, we shift our earth’s health for the better. Additionally, helping the environment can help us feel a sense of control and agency in the midst of a phenomenon that feels very scary and unmanageable. How Does Your Environment Affect Your Mental Health? Benefits of Helping the Environment Helping the environment isn’t only beneficial to our earth—it is also very helpful for our mental and physical well-being. When we care for the environment, we are often engaged in the natural world, whether that is getting outside for a beach cleanup or growing your own food. Through being outside and becoming active in nature, we can begin to experience both mental and physical health benefits. How Nature Therapy Helps Your Mental Health Mental Health Benefits When it comes to navigating the feelings that accompany climate change, engaging in pro-environmental behavior can be powerful in managing painful emotions. Spending time nurturing the environment can be seen as a form of hope, which is extremely important for maintaining our mental health. Hope doesn’t suggest that we simply wish for change. Instead, hope is an active process where we maintain faith in the ability for change through engaging in pro-environmental behavior. While it is expected to have complex and challenging feelings regarding climate change, beginning to engage in the solution can be immensely helpful. Community Gardens Benefit Those with Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Health Issues Physical Health Benefits Climate change is especially dismal for our physical health. Air pollution, decreased quality of food and water, and stress are all threats to our physical well-being. Taking positive action to offset climate change can, in turn, decrease the threats environmental changes pose to our physical health. Furthermore, exploring ways to help the environment can result in healthy behaviors. Gardening is a great physical activity and growing your own food increases your intake of fruits and veggies. The Best Forms of Exercise to Improve Your Mood What Are the Benefits of Getting Outside? Getting outside is incredibly important for our mental and physical health. Spending time in nature can result in less cognitive fatigue, decreased risk of mental illness, enhanced mood, and higher self-esteem. Even simply getting some sunshine can have huge mental health benefits—sun exposure can decrease exhaustion and depressive symptoms. When it comes to physical health, outdoor activity can lead to decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline. Consider how you can get outside and help the environment. For example, volunteering at a nature reserve or helping plant trees with a local organization are two ways you can get outside and engage in pro-environmental behavior. Nature-Based Activities Improve Mood and Limit Anxiety, New Study Confirms Ways You Can Help the Environment As previously mentioned, hope requires action. In the spirit of moving toward the healing of our globe and the well-being of our communities, finding ways to get involved in helping the environment is essential. Below are some ideas: Join a community garden. Community gardens help create healthy food and decrease the stress transporting food places on the environment. Use your bike as much as possible, especially for short trips. Studies show that 25% of volatile organic compounds are emitted in the first few miles of travel. Hopping on your bike for your next coffee trip can help keep air pollution down. Get into vintage shopping. The fashion industry is a major source of pollution—it produces 92 million tons of waste every single year. Buying used clothes can help the environment and give your wardrobe a boost of originality. Decrease your consumption. If you're wasting a lot of food or tend to buy knick-knacks that never get used, see where you can shift your habits to consume less. This can ultimately help you cut down on expenses as well, making it a win-win situation. Consider donating your time or money to environmentally-focused organizations. Earthjustice, The Nature Conservancy, and Natural Resources Defense Fund are just a few great options. What Are the Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering? A Word From Verywell It is hard to not feel scared and hopeless when considering our rapidly changing climate. However, there are steps you can take that aren’t only good for the environment, but also for your own wellness. You’re not in this alone and we are stronger together. If you’re finding that concerns about the environment are significantly impacting your daily life, reach out to a therapist for some support. Why People Struggle to Stay Motivated in the Fight Against Climate Change 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Gladwell VF, Brown DK, Wood C, Sandercock GR, Barton JL. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2013;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/2046-7648-2-3 Bulkeley H. Cities and Climate Change. 1st ed. England, UK: Routledge; 2013. Ágoston C, Csaba B, Nagy B, et al. Identifying types of eco-anxiety, eco-guilt, eco-grief, and eco-coping in a climate-sensitive population: a qualitative study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(4):2461. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19042461 Hayes K, Blashki G, Wiseman J, Burke S, Reifels L. Climate change and mental health: risks, impacts and priority actions. IJMHS. 2018;12(1):28. doi: 10.1186/s13033-018-0210-6 Tong S, Ebi K. Preventing and mitigating health risks of climate change. Environ. Res. 2019;174:9-13. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.04.012 Gladwell VF, Brown DK, Wood C, Sandercock GR, Barton JL. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2013;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/2046-7648-2-3 Knippenberg S, Damoiseaux J, Bol Y, et al. Higher levels of reported sun exposure, and not vitamin D status, are associated with less depressive symptoms and fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Acta Neurol Scand. 2014;129(2):123-131. doi: 10.1111/ane.12155 Egli V, Oliver M, Tautolo ES. The development of a model of community garden benefits to wellbeing. Prev. Med. Rep. 2016;3:348-352. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.04.005 Betts Kellyn S. Big biking payoff: alternative transportation could net midwest over $8 billion. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012;120(1):a34-a34. doi: 10.1289/ehp.120-a34b Niinimäki K, Peters G, Dahlbo H, Perry P, Rissanen T, Gwilt A. The environmental price of fast fashion. Nat Rev Earth Environ. 2020;1(4):189-200. doi: 10.1038/s43017-020-0039-9 By Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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