Do you want to find joy sustainably? With the state of the world and eco anxiety creeping in every which way, sometimes it’s hard to be genuinely at peace. I consider myself a climate optimist and yet I am still bogged down by all the bad eco news that comes my way, on top of personal woes. But here’s a secret: Your happiness does not depend on someone else, a special item, news or money.
No one can make you happy but you – and sometimes that’s really hard to do when you have anxiety, depression, etc. I know how hard it is to fight through that – and I don’t think you should ever attempt it alone (if you need help, there is no shame in that). However, this is a lesson I am slowly learning as I try to find a balance between work and play – only you can make you happy. My life has become quite overwhelming lately, and I find myself seeking solace in slowing down and living more intentionally. I don’t want to live my life for others or get overwhelmed with eco anxiety. I want to find a balance between caring for our planet and for myself. And you know what the beauty of that is? You can find joy sustainably, without harming the planet. Here’s how – and what I want to do more of.
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10 Ways to Find Joy Sustainably
What happiness and joy have to do with sustainable living
If we aren’t happy, it becomes much harder to do even simple tasks. Let alone ones that can help us save the environment we love so much.
I admit, these last few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed and upset. And when that happens, it becomes much harder for me to write blog posts.
I’m a very organic person, so how I feel radiates through everything I do. If I’m not happy, how can I focus on writing something? How can I focus on much of anything? Admittedly, this is why I didn’t write a blog post last week.
I don’t believe in overworking myself. It’s important to know when the well is beginning to run dry and not to pump it until the last drop. Stop before that to recharge and give the well time to fill back up. This is the only sustainable way to live in the ebb and flow of your emotions.
To do the work, to keep fighting the good fight, we have to have joy in our hearts. We have to cherish ourselves. There is a huge connection to wellness of self and wellness of planet. And I’m not just talking physical health, I’m talking mental health. Everything is connected, nothing is seperate.
What’s good for the earth tends to be good for me, both in mental + physical aspects. For example, going for a bike ride or a run outdoors helps me physically and mentally, but also helps the earth because I’m not using that time to drive somewhere and create carbon emissions. I’m connecting with the world around me.
How can we find joy sustainably?
To find joy sustainably, we must dive deep into ourselves and connect with what brings us true joy. More often than not, the moments of true happiness we build over time don’t cost us tons of money. In fact, they’re often pretty humble experiences.
Spending time in nature is important to find joy sustainably. We’ve become too disconnected from the outdoors over the years. Look at the jobs we hold – almost all of them order us to spend 8 hours indoors.
Have we forgotten we’re part of nature too? That our lungs want fresh air, our heart want activity, and our eyes want the blue and green sights of mama earth?
I’m not telling you to ditch your job, FYI. But I am asking you to spend more time outdoors. The best way to achieve lasting joy and happiness is through living with the seasons, getting your hands in the dirt, and re-connecting to your roots.
And all these methods of finding happiness, actually benefit the earth. It’s kind of amazing – a win-win scenario. Here are my favorite ways to find joy sustainably.
Important note: These suggestions are NOT a cure all and if you’re feeling severely depression/anxiety ridden, please seek help.
1. Go berry picking
I love going strawberry and raspberry picking. Something about it just instantly lifts my mood and makes me feel so lighthearted.
I’m of the belief everyone should know how their food is grown. When you go to a farm and pick your own berries, you can see the plants for yourself. And something in turn shifts within you – you find yourself caring about them, smiling, and appreciating these little berries.
I think we take for granted our food more often than we let on. We see heaps of produce at the grocery store during any season and just expect them to be there. It’s almost like that produce was never in the ground or grown on a plant – like it’s just manufactured in some factory and delivered overnight for our eating pleasure.
But tell me what’s better than biting into a summer sweet strawberry, raspberry or blueberry – fresh off the bush? There’s nothing sweeter.
Find a local farm near you that does Pick Your Own berries, and see if they’ll let you bring your own containers to keep waste out of the equation.
2. Spend time in a flower patch
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing beautiful wildflowers up close and personal. Have you ever came across a flower patch before? Even a small one can take your breath away, make your eyes sparkle.
The vibrant colors, the happy little bees, and the gorgeous butterflies are enough to send you into a spiral of happiness. Your heart just kind of swells and you wonder, for a moment, if the bees and butterflies admire you as much as you do them.
Preserving meadows and wildflower patches are important for our pollinators. They’re vital habitats that not only bring joy, but serve a purpose. Visiting one will help you see how intrinsically nature works as well as free your head space.
Important to note – please don’t trample on wildflowers. If there’s a sectioned off path to take, stick to it. The last thing you want to do is cause any damage to these wonderful blooms.
3. Grow your own food
Nothing brings joy the same way a garden patch does. I always feel my heart swell whenever I head into my local community garden and see my plot. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see the plants I planted with my own two hands taking root and sprouting.
Growth is beautiful. It’s life. If there’s nothing else you do on this list for your mental health, let it be gardening for your own food. I cannot tell you all the reward you feel while holding a basket full of your own homegrown produce. It’s incredible.
I’m currently growing herbs (cilantro, chives, mint, parsley and sage), broccoli, kale, spinach, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, marigolds and peppers in mine. It’s a 4 by 4 system and it’s amazing how much you can grow in that space alone. I highly recommend it if you have limited space yourself.
Do a mix of sprouts and seeds in your garden for the best results. The joy that will take over your face when you see your seeds pop up into little sprouts will be immeasurable. And of course, when they actually start to flower or fruit, a rush of happiness will overcome you too. I know it does for me.
Knowing where your food comes from is vital to our physical health – because you can make sure no pesticides or plastic wrap touches it. You’re in control. Growing our own food is also great for the earth because it promotes regenerative practices that keep the soil healthy, and reduces the carbon emissions needed to get our food. Nothing had to travel overseas to get to you.
You can also practice zero waste gardening to help reduce your garden’s footprint even further.
4. Take a bike ride or a jog
When you’re moving your body outdoors, you’ll feel so alive. Your body was designed to move, and the more movement you do, the better your circulatory system works. Plus, exercising boosts mood, which means pairing it with the outdoors is a powerful combination.
Our bodies long to be outdoors whether we realize it or not. And they also long to expend energy. Think about this: When you don’t move at all throughout the day, come night, how do you feel? Probably a bit restless, right? There’s a reason for that. Our bodies have unspent energy and don’t know what to do with it.
This is why it’s so important to expend that energy in some healthy way. You don’t need a gym membership to do it – just get outside and move your body. Be it walking, swimming, jogging, hiking or biking – your body will thank you. And so will your mental health.
Definitely checking out these zero waste and eco-friendly activewear brands you’ll want to workout in. I own a few pieces from these brands myself!
5. Explore a forest
The forest is teeming with life. And I’m not just talking about tropical rainforests – though that’s pretty cool too. But nope – the forest right in your backyard is honestly just as amazing.
There are three types of forests out there: Temperate, tropical, and boreal. Here in NY we definitely have temperate forests – these are found between the tropical and boreal regions. They are the forests that change with the seasons and the first thing we think of when we see fall leaves.
Tropical rainforests are very hot, wet places and located near the Equator. Boreal forests are adapted to frigid temperatures. Sadly, a lot of our precious rainforests are constantly at risk of deforestation.
Which ever kind of forest you have near you – explore it and learn why these amazing biospheres are so worth protecting. But also, let it calm you and nourish your soul. Feel the shade of the trees, listen to the sounds of the birds, forage for wild plants. Let the forest speak to your soul and captivate you with its moss, trees, fungi, and fauna.
I recommend forest bathing – or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
6. Soak in the sun
There’s a reason we feel happier when the sun is out.
The sun actually boosts serotonin which is a hormone that makes us happy. The more serotonin we have, the lower the levels of depression and anxiety we feel.
Also, if you’re regularly exposing yourself to the sun, this helps produce melatonine, aka the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm. Time in the sun will actually help us sleep better, which results in a much less cranky mood.
So, the next time you’re feeling down, get some sun! Even if it’s just for 30 minutes, spending time outdoors soaking up those warm rays will help boost your mood so much. Take it in by closing your eyes, lifting your head up, and breathing deeply for extra relaxation. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen though.
7. Spend time on a beach
Nothing relaxes me more than spending time by the beach. I could watch the glitteringwaves crash against the shore all day long. The little sea pipers that move in and out with the tide, the pretty sea shells and sea glass the tide washes in. It’s magical.
I love to close my eyes, soak in the sun, smell the salty air. Let the life force of the ocean pulse through my veins. It makes me want to become a mermaid and just dive right in. Water is just so healing, so nourishing – and yes, powerful. You must treat it with the utmost respect.
It will do you good to go to the ocean and stare at the dreamy shoreline. Just make sure you leave it better than you found it, and leave nothing behind. I recommend taking reef safe sunscreen with you, a nice oversized linen beach towel, and some package free snacks. And don’t take any seashells – a lot of marine animals use them for shelter. Better off leaving them be and admiring in person.
8. Start meditating
Meditation helps promote mindfulness and focus. By meditating, you can increase your sense of overall peace and wellness of self.
Often times this world demands a lot from us, and we’re over-stimulated by it. Between our TVs, computers, phones and obligations, it can get pretty loud. Everything is vying for our attention and because of this, we rarely get to just be inside our own heads with peace and tranquility.
I encourage you to shut the electronics off, get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Take deep relaxing breaths through your nose, out through your mouth. Do this for as long as you can – anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes is a great start.
This will help focus your mind and reduce the internal dialogue happening within telling you to do things. I once did a meditation challenge for 30 days and emerged so much lighter, calmer and at peace. I cannot recommend it enough.
There are many forms of meditation so experiment with whatever works for you. There’s guided meditations, and even walking meditations. There’s also some wonderful calming meditation music on YouTube you can listen to – I personally love Paul Collier‘s piano music. SO soothing and gentle.
Best part? Meditation is carbon negative – I mean, think about it. Nothing about it is harming the planet. If anything, you’re connecting with your breath which is connected with the air.
9. Appreciate the small things
A beach rose with a single dew drop on it; A glass of fresh squeezed lemonade on a hot day; A lady bug landing on your arm; A gentle breeze. Stop and appreciate the things in life that may seem small when we’re rushing around, but actually aren’t.
These “small things” add up to a lot of big things. They’re where we find joy sustainably, and without much effort. Just look around and observe what you see – is there something you notice you haven’t before? What have you been over skirting or taking for granted?
Take time to slow down and appreciate the things you may not on a regular basis. Notice the flowers in bloom – they will only last so long. Enjoy the warm summer days – soon it will be winter. Cherish tomato season – after summer, they won’t taste nearly this good.
Slowing down and appreciating the world around us, even the little things, helps us live better in tune with the seasons. Living seasonally is so beneficial to the earth (and our mental health) because we don’t over-exert our resources but appreciate the ones we are privy to. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you start eating seasonally – here are the benefits of shopping at the farmers market.
10. Practice journaling + gratitude
I always keep a journal and I like to log my feelings, dreams and goals into it whenever possible. It’s a healthy form of expression and honestly gets me through very challenging times. While I do love writing on the blog, nothing quite compares to picking up a pen and writing on paper.
That being said, I do like to use eco friendly notebooks for this whenever possible. The ones I’m currently using are compostable at the end of their life which is very important to me.
I encourage you to take up the daily practice of journaling your feelings. And, to write down everything you’re grateful for that day. It’s okay if it’s a short little blurb. But expressing gratitude helps you find joy sustainably too – because it makes you realize what you have.
The best time of day to express gratitude is beginning or end of day – totally your call. I like to wake up and do it after breakfast, but you find a time that works for you and stick with it. Then I journal about the day before bed (and yes, sometimes I do skip entries).
It’s good for your mental health to let things out somehow. And sometimes, there are things you can only confide to a journal. Lets face it, our journals cannot yell back at us or even judge us. They can simply capture our words and thoughts and offer us something to reflect on and learn from. But it’s truly freeing.
What are some ways you find joy sustainably? What did you think of this list?
For more ways to boost your happy, and protect the planet, try creating a pollinator garden.
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