Positive psychology and Environmental Protection: Sustainable Happiness!
"We are used to saying that we must save our planet, but in truth, it’s humanity that we must save. Whatever we do, our planet will survive us (we humans are nothing to her); however the future of humanity is depending on what we do to our planet.”
- Albert Jacquard -
Why should we save the planet? Vast question, isn’t it? It's a bit of the "to be or not to be?" in modern times. A question with multiple possible answers. Today it is from the perspective of Positive Psychology that I would like to provide an answer. And what better time to talk about nature and the environment than at the end of the summer holidays!
The ocean as far as the eye can see, a majestic rock mass, a field filled with colorful flowers, a breathtaking concert, a magical exhibition of painting ... On vacation we are looking for awe! And we do it rightly because awe is one of the most beneficial feelings for human being according to Positive Psychology.
For my part, I experienced awe at the top of the Great Dune of Pyla in the Arcachon Bay overlooking the Banc d'Arguin and the ocean. Having spent all my childhood in the Arcachon Bay, this landscape is magical to me. So much beauty makes me feel very small.
Positive Psychology defines awe as the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world. We then experience a feeling of smallness that increases our feeling of interconnection with others and broadens our vision.
But the chase for awe has a cost: holidays on the other side of the world have adverse effects on the environment and the planet, and therefore on human being. Thus, the chase for awe is depriving ourselves from it little by little. The preservation of the environment and ecology are issues that have been particularly close to my heart since I published a paper on "The Case for an International Regime for the Arctic". That is when I discovered with fear the current and future consequences of our way of life on nature, and especially on the human being. I also realized that for me the holidays were more "zero stress" than "zero impact". So this year I decided to align beliefs and acts: a bike vacation and zero waste to take care of my feeling of awe so dear to Positive Psychology. Which means: no restaurant, no supermarket, no plastic wrap, no vegetables out of season, no hotel, no plane, no motorized water activities. The result: only three rubbish in five days, (two food labels and a paper towel) and an immense satisfaction. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony".
Nature makes us happier
In Positive Psychology we talk a lot about the importance of the quality of life in the professional environment. However, there is less talk about the need to take care of one's environment in the natural sense of the word. The holidays are an opportunity to disconnect work, phone, obligations of all kinds and reconnect with nature. Yes, because mother nature carries vital energy. First because the oxygen we breathe comes from nature, but also because nature has benefits on the body, the psyche and the emotional. Nature makes us feel emotionally connected to life. According to research, proximity to nature often predicts happiness independently of any other psychological factors in our lives (love, friends, work, community ...)..
Studies show that nature brings a lot of benefits to humans :
- Decrease of crime levels in cities with green spaces
- Increase of the sense of trust and security
- Increase of participation in the community
- Increase of the sense of satisfaction
- Stimulation of the creativity
- Increase of generosity, kindness and altruism
- Increase of sociability, decrease of egocentrism
- Reduces stress
- Decrease of the level of anxiety and depression
- Reduction of ruminations
- Increase of the level of happiness
The feeling of awe leads to greater satisfaction in everyday life, a perception of time slowed so more anchoring to the present moment, greater humility, a decrease of personal concerns. It encourages us to act in a more collective way, to be less narcissistic, more kind to others.
This feeling also has beneficial effects on health. Indeed, among all the positive emotions only the feeling of awe allows to biologically reduce the rate of cytokines, chemical messengers, responsible at too high levels of poorer health and disorders such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer's disease and clinical depression.
Nature is fundamental to humans, yet we are not always attentive to our impact on the environment in return.