Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 112

Helping Yourself by Helping the Earth

Happy Earth Day!

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

As if to literally and figuratively remind us of the importance of Earth Day today, a fierce fire is spreading heat across Arizona and the Southwest. Until this reminder, it seemed to me that this year’s Earth Day was getting less attention than usual. Perhaps that is due in part to all the media coverage of the invasion of Ukraine, or that the grip of the pandemic is lessening.

Whatever the reason is, the concerns with our Earth’s natural environment do not seem to be slowing down sufficiently, whether that be climate instability, environmental toxins, biodiversity loss, air pollution besides carbon, and live-giving water insecurity among them.

Perhaps part of the problem is that for many of these, there is not the motivating “clear and present danger.” Psychologically, we are most motivated to save our own lives. Maybe the problem, then, is that our focus has not felt personal enough. Articles like this one, scholarly presentations, and promising coalitions just are not doing the trick.

What about turning the spotlight first on ourselves? As my namesake Hillel famously said centuries ago:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when?”

Hot off the press, recent international research indicates a positive relationship between environmentally friendly behavior and personal subjective well-being.1 Though most pronounced in India and China, the results were similar across diverse countries and various socioeconomic levels.

Then there is the therapeutic value of various immersions in nature. Therapeutic nature can include what is sometimes called forest bathing, gardening, wilderness trips, birding, and outdoor sports like golf or swimming. Who does not want to feel better mentally?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

Reference

1. Capstick S, Nash N, Whitmarsh L, et al. The connection between subjective wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviors: individual and cross-national characteristics in a seven-country study. Environmental Science & Policy. 2022;133:63-73.