How to be more eco-conscious with mindfulness practices
Read about how mindful practices help us expand our eco-consciousness. If you feel disconnected from your natural surroundings or want to reduce your stress in order to become a better advocate for the planet, mindfulness can help.
Researchers recently coined the phrase, “plant blindness” to describe how little we notice or place importance on plants. Most people, especially those living in cities, can’t name more than a few different types of plants, and they don’t really factor plants into their memories or experiences.
And this problem raises a larger issue related to sustainability: we can’t really help something we don’t acknowledge, let alone understand.
If we can’t see plants for what they are--how can we really expand our empathy and awareness towards all living things outside of our human systems? This is where mindfulness could help us bridge the gap.
Eco-mindfulness and our awareness
Rooted in Buddhist and Hindu teachings, mindful practices help us first draw attention to our thoughts and our life force: our breath. By linking our breath to an intention or a mantra, we can align our breath, thoughts, and awareness around a specific intention like hope, love or gratitude. The connection between our thought and breath helps us understand our interconnection to our surroundings.
Next, mindful practices encourage you to focus your attention on the present moment and use your senses to notice what’s going on around you. You can start to notice the details like the color of the sky, the background sounds that you usually tune out, and even the plants nearby: their shapes, growth patterns, textures and colors.
This roots your awareness in the moment and allows you to observe and notice how your surroundings make you feel. Mindfulness helps us observe things from a feeling of safety, calm and detachment, thanks to the relaxing power of healthy, full inhalations and exhalations. With oxygen coursing through our veins, we feel more perceptive and our feelings become less overwhelming.
Mindfulness also helps you focus on the present moment, so the thoughts of things people share on social media or conversations you had online recede to the background.
But what does this have to do with eco-consciousness?
Mindfulness helps us pay attention
Can you sense when a space or environment feels rejuvenating and relaxing versus unhealthy and dangerous? Noticing when your body or breath recoils from the scent of chemicals or smoke helps us remember that we need clean air and water to live a healthy life.
Mindfulness helps us see connections
The more time you spend paying attention in the moment, the more you can see the connections between the things around you: how the seasonal shifts affect your mood, or how the noise on your street distracts you. This will help you place more importance on nature, since the environment is so important to everything we do: our food, our shelter, even our sleeping patterns.
Mindfulness helps reduce stress
Even if you are a very environmentally aware person already, the problems we face like climate change and biodiversity loss can feel overwhelming, and incredibly sad. If we want to do something about the environment, we need to do so from a place of calmness, courage, and hope. Mindfulness helps us restore our mental and emotional balance, so we can take action in a way that doesn't produce our stress hormone. Stress is a toxic hormone that weakens your immunity and even shortens our lifespans. It is critical to reduce it as much as possible when taking on challenges.
Finding your mindful connection to nature
Here are some ways to connect to nature through mindfulness:
Mindful breathing and meditation
- Nature walks in which you notice connections
- Setting an intention to appreciate nature each day
- Remembering the ways the environment shaped how you felt at the end of each day
Let us know how you practice eco-mindfulness in the comments.
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