Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mindfulness and Sustainability

At first glance mindfulness and sustainability might not seem to be that connected.  After all, what does sitting and concentrating on breathing have to do with ecological science, depleted non-renewable resources, or LEED certification?  

An interesting study in Social Indicators Research from Jacob, Jovic, and Brinkerhoff point out that mindfulness and sustainability are actually connected.  The study, titled Personal and planetary well-being: Mindfulness meditation, pro-environmental behavior and personal quality of life in a survey from the social justice and ecological sustainability movement, connects the practice of mindfulness to both behavior beneficial to the environment and higher rates of well being. One of the interesting items the study points out is that when people practice mindfulness meditations they are less likely to make decisions "on automatic."  Ever walk into a room and forget why you were there?  How did that mysterious bag of chips appear in your hands?  So with an increased skill in being mindful people have an easier time of making conscious and deliberate decisions.  Slowing down, taking the time the actually experience life and discern what you really want to do leads to more environmentally conscious decisions and higher levels of life satisfaction.  "What's good for you is good for the planet."  Sounds good to me!  

Another researcher's work, Oscar Kjell's study Sustainable well-being: A potential synergy between sustainability and well-being research in Review of General Psychology, takes a little different approach to the same general area.  Kjell points out that the key factors in sustainability research, such as interdependence, community health, and balanced adaptive processes, are also key factors in well-being research.  The optimal approach to well being is pointed out as one that takes into consideration the well being of community and that individuals are reliant/interdependent on their communities.  

So, if you've heard of Bhutan's experiments with the Gross National Happiness Indicator these studies might sounds familar.  Bhutan has found that when the development indicator that government pays attention to includes environmental health, education, psychological well being, community health, cultural diversity and reslience, political functionality, and economic wellness they have a better picture of what their country actually looks like.  With this better picture they can focus on the concerns that matter in people's happiness and well being.  What matters to you for your own happiness and well being?

So, sit, relax, take a few breaths, it's good for the planet.