Climate Active: Protecting the planet means a healthier you
Eat a balanced diet. Stay active. Be engaged. Spend time with those you love. This is great advice for staying healthy right? We have to add one other thing though: protect the planet. Yes, it turns out that those who strive to live an eco-friendly lifestyle are also healthier—physically, mentally, and emotionally—with lower rates of chronic disease and depression (Capstick, 2022; Ibánez-Rueda, Guillén-Royo, & Guardiola, 2021). According to recent data, taking care of the planet—being climate active, if you will—can serve as another form of exercise. Conscientiously reducing our carbon footprint, tending to the land, and protecting our natural resources nurtures a cycle of eco-wellness. Let's see why there appears to be a link between climate engagement and wellness, and how we can all be more climate active. 

Being Climate Active Boosts Wellness

It just so happens that going on a hike, gardening, walking through a park, volunteering in a green scraping project, and similar activities, promote your mental health. The benefits of connecting with, and nourishing, nature have been known for decades. The field of ecotherapy—the process of connecting to, communing with, and revitalizing nature to promote wellbeing—has been around since the early 1980s (Jones, 2016). Through a 2016 longitudinal study—tracking 100,000 participants over eight years—researchers found that subjects living in the greenest area had a 12% lower mortality rate (Jones, 2016). Additionally, ecotherapy-centered activities have been associated with higher cognitive functioning, improved mental health, strengthened physical health, and enhanced wellbeing (Kras, 2021). The alternative to climate action can lead to a much different fate. Climate doomers—those who believe that climate change is inevitable and the trend of global warming, or, more accurately, global boiling, cannot be curbed—are likely to suffer poorer mental health. Ogunbode et al. determined that the higher one's climate anxiety, the lower their mental wellbeing (Ogunbode at al., 2022). Furthermore, a 2020 regression analysis of 973 post-secondary students showed that pro-environmental behavior, climate activism, was positively correlated with eudaimonia, a state of mind that can best be described as a satisfying combination of wellbeing, happiness and growth (Ibánez-Rueda, Guillén-Royo, & Guardiola, 2020). Additionally, Schwartz et al. (2023) found that engaging in collective climate action significantly reduced the association between functional impairment, caused by climate change anxiety, and major-depressive-disorder symptoms. Moreover, individual engagement in climate action was linked to lower levels of generalized anxiety disorder (Schwartz et al., 2023). These findings indicate that though climate change is a foreboding obstacle, climate action, getting involved, would grant us the focus, wherewithal, and resilience to confront, and perhaps, even overcome, the challenge.

Though the above results are encouraging, it is worth noting the emotional and psychological effects climate change can inflict. As climate change most adversely affects lower-income populations (Ogunbode et al., 2022) that are historically the most vulnerable—through job loss, displacement, respiratory illness, and other consequences (American Psychiatric Association, 2023)—damage to our environment often breeds trauma. Victims of climate change are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. (American Psychiatric Association, 2023) Moreover, because of the reduced opportunities and costs left in climate change's aftermath (prolonged drought, hurricanes, floods and other disasters), climate change may lead to violence and crime. However, the aforementioned impacts are hardly inevitable. In shifting our focus from climate change to climate action, the consequences of global boiling will be decisively minimized.

How to Stay Climate Active 

Being climate active does not require being a tireless environmentalist or participating regularly in climate-change protests (though this would of course be appreciated ;-)). Being climate active, at heart, requires enjoying the environment, and serving as a responsible steward. If you go on a hike, ensure that you don't inflict any unnecessary wear and tear on trails. If you house plants, or tend to a garden, ensure that you look closely after your plants, fruits, or vegetables, and they get the nutrients they need. If you're considering volunteering, think about taking part in a clean-and-green activity, holding an interactive climate action event with students, or organizing a farmer's market for your neighborhood. Outdoor fitness; a yoga routine; curricula that tie academic concepts to environmental issues; engagement with community-based environmental efforts; trauma-responsive instructional and therapeutic methods; and ensuring public and private spaces are accessible (World Health Organization, 2022) are all excellent examples of climate activity. You just want to ensure love of, respect for, and protection of the environment part of your everyday life.

Show up for the Planet, Show up for Yourself

And, being climate active requires taking care of another precious resource: your body. Eat a balanced diet, predominantly consisting of unprocessed foods. Ensure you get moderate to intense exercise daily, even if just for a few minutes (for instance, walking your dog each day definitely counts). Just as importantly, take some time to wind down and reflect. Deep breathing, meditating, or purposeful journaling all qualify. Be grateful for the planet in which you're lucky enough to live; what it has blessed you with; and, the opportunities, each day, to make you, and the planet, better. Perhaps, through taking care of the planet, the planet will take even better care of us.


American Psychiatric Association. (2023). Climate change and mental health connections.

Capstick, S. (2022). How can a green lifestyle improve happiness?

Ibánez-Rueda, N., Guillén-Royo, M. & Guardiola, J. (2021). Pro-environmental behavior, connectedness to nature, and wellbeing dimensions among Granada students. Sustainability, 12(21), 9171. 

Kras, N. (2021). Exploring the benefits of ecotherapy-based activities at an urban community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 45(2), 117-123. 

Ogunbode, C.A., Doran, R., Hanss, D., Ojala, M., Salmela-Aro, K., van der Broek, K.L., Bhullar, N., Aquino, S.D., Marot, T., Schermer, J.A., Wlodarczyk, A., Lu, S., Jiang, F., Maran, D.A., Yadav, R., Ardi, R., Chegeni, R., Ghanbarian, E., Zand, S., Najafi, R., Park, J., Tsubakita, T., Tan, C.S., Chukwuorji, J.B.C., Ojewumi, K.A., Tahir, H., Albzour, M., Reyes, M.E.S., Lins, S., Enea, V., Volkodav, T., Sollar, T., Navarro-Carrillo, G., Torres-Marín, Mbungu, W., Avanian, A.H., Ghorayeb, J., Onyutha, C., Lomas, M.J., Helmy, M., Martinez-Buelvas, L., Bayad, A., & Karasu, M. (2022). Climate anxiety, wellbeing and pro-environmental action: Correlates of negative emotional responses to climate change in 32 countries. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 84(2022), 101887. 

Schwartz, S.E.O., Benoit, L., Clayton, S., Parnes, M.F., Swenson, L., & Lowe, S.R. (2023). Climate change anxiety and mental health: Environmental activism as buffer. Current Psychology, 42, 16708-16721.

World Health Organization. (2022). Why mental health is a priority for action on climate change. 

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