This week I learned about environment. Where you live impacts your mental health. One of the most sad but also most stark and compelling pieces of evidence for this are the studies showing the ridiculous rates of depression and other major mental health disorders in places where mountaintop removal mining has happened.
On the flip side is all the evidence about how just a small amount of time per day spent in the woods or on the water has the opposite effect.
Actually, the positive effect was seen when the participants noticed even a “tree at the bus stop” or any similar natural thing. Houseplants count.
Many of us are switching to remote work and are noticing the mental health consequences — more loneliness, anxiety, stress. Well, there’s one positive effect: flexibility. And with flexibility comes the ability to choose your environment.
Sometimes it can feel Herculean to make even small positive choices when you’re a bit down. But the smallest of small positive changes to your environment can (it’s proven!) make real positive change to your mental and emotional health.
I ended up painting my stairway. (I know, not nature, but it felt right this week) What can you do to add a little beauty into your environment this week?
The study that Holli-Anne Passmore conducted simply asked participants to take a picture of one non-human made thing per day that caught their eye.
What a lovely way to begin to notice where you are and how that makes you feel.
As you go through your day, take a picture of any non-human made thing that catches your eye, and then write a little note about how it made you feel.
I’m not sure how universal this is, but for me, literally changing my environment is often the last thing I think of if I am not feeling great.
Consider becoming conscious of your space and how small changes might make you feel better.
A houseplant, a painting, a silly tchotchke. Personally, I get a bit happy simply remembering that I *can* make these little changes. It goes into so many areas of wellness — remembering a sense of agency, the impact beauty has on how you feel, and the actual exercise of present-moment awareness.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
What if you spent an entire day really aware of and intentionally choosing your environment?
So, for example, you mindlessly have your coffee every morning facing a blank wall.
But across from you is a window facing a garden — maybe you might want to turn your chair a bit.
You always walk to work on a certain street which always has construction — change your route. Or of course, if you drive, find a more scenic way. Notice clouds this week. Or try to name a tree — trying to remember if that tree on your corner is an oak or a birch (I don’t know…) can help gently guide your attention to it, and find beauty in your daily life.
9. Hero: Alstair Humphreys — Microadventures
Why? He’s a lovely guy who created the idea of micro adventures.
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts. Environment episode featuring Rat Park, Thursday.