Your commute has been erupted by organisations like Extinction Rebellion, you’ve heard the voice of Great Thunberg and you’ve seen the devastation of the fires in Australias. The world is waking up to the reality of climate change.
There’s been a growing unease as more and more people think of the world we live in. This has led to the rise of ‘climate anxiety’, characterised by feeling overwhelmed, powerless and constantly distracted. In severe cases, this can become a preoccupation affecting focus, work, and sleep.
But isn’t mindfulness a waste of time that fixes nothing? Well, there’s more to it than sitting around chanting “om”. Here’s a guide, provided by mindfulness expert Neil Seligman (www.neilseligman.com):
1 Start at the beginning
“Mindfulness reminds us to begin with an attitude of acceptance and welcoming,” says Neil. “The now is the fulcrum of reality and the only point of potent action. Ruminating on how we got here or catastrophising about the future (whilst entertaining to the human mind with its propensity for negativity) tends to build depression and anxiety, when what we need today is bright eyes, clear thinking, and a thirst for fresh conscious solutions that work in harmony with the environment.”
2 Just breathe
“If you are dealing with anxiety which becomes intrusive during the day, I recommend practising STOP, a pocket-practice taught on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses to help you regain clarity and calm before deciding your next move.” The practice goes as follows:
- Stop and pause. Ground yourself for a moment. Feel gravity pushing you into your seat or stance.
- Take a series of conscious breaths feeling the physical sensations of the breath in the body and bring both palms together holding your hands in a gentle clasp. Feel the warmth and energy of your aliveness.
- Open – widen the focus of your awareness by observing non-judgmentally what is happening internally and externally. Is there a new opportunity presenting itself?
However, if anxiety is prevalent, Neil advises consulting your GP or mental health professional to see if attending the MBSR 8-week course could be a good next step.
3 Take mindful action
Remembering that we as individuals are not responsible for the current state of the world, even so, we can take action. “Taking action, even small ones, allows us to feel more in control and connected to others. Your contribution is valuable and important,” says Neil. Therefore changing your habits, however small, can make a big difference.
Here are some things you could try:
- Eat less meat.
- Changing your diet, whether you become a vegan or choose the veggie option for breakfast is a great way to be a friend to the environment.
- Ditch the car.
- Public transport, cycling and walking are great ways to make your carbon footprint a little smaller.
- Go green. Period!
- Periods happen but that doesn’t mean it can’t be eco-friendly. Here are ways to have a plastic-free period.
- Bring your own.
- If you’re a coffee-lover, why not buy a travel mug? Not only are you showing love to our world, but many coffee houses will reduce the price if you’re reusing!
4 Nobody’s perfect
Remember that any change, however small, in acknowledgement of the climate issue is important. So don’t feel the need to change absolutely everything. It’s okay to enjoy a steak dinner and care about climate change. “As human beings, we are all hypocritical to a certain degree and limited in our ability to express integrity,” Neil explains. ” I have yet to meet a human being able to demonstrate 100% integrity 100% of the time”. Therefore Neil recommends a more gradual change. “If you feel motivated to make more changes once the new habits have become the new normal, go for it”.
5 Judge less. Love more
The world can be filled with judgement and we, ourselves, can also be easy to judge. “When we feel anxious and under threat, it is incredibly easy to point fingers and to shift the attention of our own discomfort onto others,” Neil explains. “The problem here is that people defend, or disengage in the face of such attacks. Mindfulness reminds us to practice non-judgment and meet others where they are”.
If we look at the bigger picture, we all need to come together to really save the world. “Industry, business, politics and society to come together and some will come quicker than others”.
6 Listen to experts
“I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Paul Hawken, author of The Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming recently”, Neil reminisces. “He struck a positive, compassionate and optimistic tone, explaining that all is not lost and there is still time to turn our collective fate around. There are sophisticated intelligent plans that we can all contribute to and feel part of the solution.” If you want to do more, Neil recommends reading this book to learn more about these plans.
7 Find harmonic solutions
It’s pretty easy to overthink and catastrophise whatever’s on our mind. However, taking a more positive mindset could really help. Meditation can really help you visualise possible solutions and how the situation could work out well. Neil says, “mindfulness has the capacity to drop us directly into our creativity and wisdom and the simplest practice can offer insights that the analytical mind would never come up with.”.