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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Eco-Altruism and Your Mental Health

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: May 11th 2009

thinking planetMy wife and I were out with some friends this weekend at a festival in our neighborhood. Our friends began to engage with a couple  of men who were selling the service of coming to your home and setting up a planting box made out of redwood and putting the soil in soil to grow your own garden. When they mentioned the price of it, I thought, "wow, that's expensive for such a little box and soil." My friend proceeded to say, "well, this is our eco-initiative for the year." When he put it that way the cost all of a sudden didn't seem quite as expensive and it really made me think. What is the link between eco-altruism and mental health?

In life, it's easier for most of us to gravitate toward self judgment and being really hard on ourselves. At the end of the day, a little of this can be motivating, but more often than not, it is too much of it and ends up causing us undue stress on our minds and bodies. Because of this, I've integrated the practice in my own life to try and be more kind to my mind and body knowing that sending myself this energy is often healing. I may thank myself for taking time-out of my daily busy-ness to do things for my own health and well-being.

But there is also this planet that provides the space for all of us to live on. Whether you believe in the theory of global warming or not, the question still arises, how are you giving back to this place that houses you day in and day out? The act of gratitude has been shown to have wonderful effects on our health and well-being. So actually expressing gratitude through action may not only be good for the planet, but may also be good for our mental (and physical) health.

So what is your eco-initiative for the year? In what way can you give thanks to this planet that serves as a greater home for this entire life? There are so many things that can be done from looking up organizations and donating, to creating a garden in your home, to planting in pots. Why not make a plan and try this for this year and see what effect it has on you? Does it bring up good feelings to give back to the planet? Might this be good for your mental health?

Whatever you do, don't take my word for it, try it for yourself, and trust your own experience. If you know of good organizations to donate to or you have ideas or experiences with how to be kind to this planet and what effect that has on you, please share in the comment section below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

I agree completely! - - Jan 5th 2010

What you say is so true. The human body recognizes when the person is being altruistic by sending out endorphins that result in a burst of optomistic energy. This holds true especially in regards to giving back to the earth. Research has found that when a person spends time in a natural environment, they become more balanced and happier. Keep up this great blog!

I am going to be doing my research paper for my senior project on body energy and this lends perfectly to my thesis.

Thank you!

Simplicity - Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. - May 12th 2009

Thank you for engaging in this topic Damien. The message I'm conveying here, is simply to nurture a sense of caring for our environments. Research has shown that when we cultivate a sense of altruism or caring it correlates positively with various measures of well-being and stress reduction. So, with that logic, what I was noticing in my own experience was that having an eco-initiative (that doesn't mean overextending yourself to a point of stress to care for the environment), can be supportive to mental health. This might be acknowleding that you recycle or maybe creating a small sustainable garden, or maybe as simple as trying to keep trash down. 

This may also not be for everyone. But the bottom line to any of these blogs or any thoughts or advice you hear is to never take the writer's word for it, but try it out for yourself and trust your own experience.  

I don't think eco stuff figures in as much with mental health - Damien - May 12th 2009

I've enjoyed reading your blog about a week now.  I just today discovered where the comment button was :)

 If I get you correctly, you are saying paying a higher price is justifiable for our sense of "eco" mental health.  I think sometimes our minds would be healthier if we cared less about styrofoam and all organic yadda yadda.  I have  a few friends that are seriously whacked on that stuff 24/7.

I can be mentally healthy and throw tons of plastic into a landfill.  I think mental health has nothing to do with "eco-guilt."  I think you are reaching just a bit.  That's if I am understanding you correctly, which I may not be.

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