Taking to Twitter to explore the relationship between our mental health and the ongoing climate crisis, author and mental health advocate Matt Haig explained why treating environmentalism and mental wellbeing as two separate issues is such a problem.
There’s something so satisfying about getting outside after a day spent working indoors – of allowing yourself to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the world around you.
No period has ever brought this into focus quite like lockdown. Without the ability to get out and about as we usually would, going for a daily walk became an important part of many of our daily schedules: not only because it was a great way to get out of the house while working from home, but also because, during a time when our levels of stress, anxiety and depression were on the up, spending time in nature helped to boost our wellbeing.
In fact, a survey conducted by the National Trust back in June revealed that more than two-thirds (68%) of adults either agreed or strongly agreed that spending time in nature had made them feel happy during lockdown.
To sum things up, we know that the natural world is innately linked to our wellbeing as humans. So why, when it comes to climate change and the destruction of the environment, are we so reluctant to talk about nature in this way?
That’s the message behind a new tweet from author and mental health advocate Matt Haig, who took to Twitter yesterday to explore the connection between mental health and environmental issues.
Questioning why we find it so hard to see mental health and environmentalism as inter-connected, he wrote: “We need to stop compartmentalising issues. Mental health and environmentalism are related issues. Our detachment from nature, and from our own human nature, is as bad for our minds as it is for our eco-system.
“Our brains are part of the natural world. They feel its trauma.”
Haig continued: “Take something like body dysmorphia or an eating disorder or tech addiction or increased sleep deprivation or panic attacks or anxiety in urban settings. These are all issues caused or exacerbated by a disconnect from nature. Environmentalism is a mental health issue.”
While it’s important to note that mental health conditions such as eating disorders or panic attacks cannot be magically cured with a walk in the park and are not caused by one isolated factor, it’s interesting to consider how our detachment from nature could be contributing to these ongoing issues and making them worse.
Of course, Haig isn’t the only one who has spoken about this connection between mental health and the climate. Alongside the countless studies demonstrating the detrimental impact distance from nature can have on our wellbeing, in May 2019, Australian sustainability professor Glenn Albrecht coined the term “solastalgia” to describe the psychic pain of climate change and missing something that’s transforming before your eyes.
Not only could viewing seeing mental health and environmentalism as two inter-connected issues help us to understand more about how to take better care of our wellbeing in the future, but it also helps to demonstrate just how important climate action is, because the destruction of nature caused by climate change directly affects us, too.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
For confidential support you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.