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Climate News - June 2023


by Emma De Roy, M.Sc.



Picture your best self – the 2.0 version of you. What does it look like? Odds are, 2.0 you is your happiest self.

Many of us are looking for the secret sauce to happiness. We want to know what to do to be happier, live longer, and lead more fulfilling lives. Our spending reflects it – in 2022, Americans spent $450 billion on wellness products and services. And why wouldn’t we? After all, happiness is linked to longevity and better relationships, among other benefits.

Unfortunately, we’re looking for happiness in the wrong places. Spoiler alert: the short-term fixes we often rely on for a happiness boost don’t do much for us in the long term. Sometimes our brains trick us. We strive to make more money in the hope that that will make us happier, but once a financial setpoint is reached, we actually undermine our well-being. Despite constant spending, our happiness levels, somewhat stubbornly, don’t budge. In fact, materialism is associated with lower levels of life satisfaction. Yet, we’re often told that the next best thing is just one purchase or raise away.

What if I told you that the ‘secret sauce’ to happiness is a lot simpler than you think and that you could boost your happiness today?

Here are 7 tips for boosting happiness:

  1.     Take a forest bath – Taking a short walk in nature decreases stress and boosts positive moods. Listening to bird songs on the way increases mental well-being for hours after a walk. Invite a friend to make the walk more socialand double your happiness boost.
  1.     Eat more greens – We know that fruits and vegetables are good for our physical health, but what you may not know is that they’re good for your mental well-being as well. Results from a pilot study suggest that individuals who adopted plant-based diets had increased well-being. Plant-based diets have also been shown to increase your microbiome diversity, reducing inflammation and stress-induced behavior.
  1.     Volunteer – Doing things for others and the greater good boosts happiness too. As a bonus, volunteering helps you build your social circle and expand your network of acquaintances, which also increases happiness.

      Find volunteering opportunities near you here.

  1.     Bike to work – Did you know that cyclists are the happiest commuters? Cycling can give you more control over your commute and provides the benefit of a workout. Exercise decreases anxiety (which many of us may be feeling during a pandemic) and increases life satisfaction. Electric bikes can help you get through those hills that might deter you from biking.

      You can find the easiest bike routes by toggling to the ‘cycling’ mode on Google Maps.

  1.     Donate – Data from 136 countries shows that our well-being increases when we spend to help others. Many charitable organizations will let you set up recurring payments – you can set up a donation monthly or annually, and never have to remind yourself to keep donating.

      Buying just one less coffee a week would reward you with > $150 a year to donate.

6. Work from home – As many of us transition back to physical offices, we can protect our happiness levels by carving out a portion of our time teleworking. Early research suggests that employees that could self-select work environments and working hours scored higher on various dimensions of happiness – likely because it gives us a sense of control.

7. Coordinate a community event – Don’t pass up an opportunity to team up with your neighbors. Communal nature-based activities can increase community pride and strengthen neighborhood quality of life.

If being happier isn’t enough for you, the upside to all of the above-mentioned actions is that they are all good for the environment too. Green space not only improves our mental health but also reduces flooding and coolscommunities. Cycling provides huge air quality benefits, as does teleworking (which also reduces greenhouse gas emissions). Incorporating more plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, grains, and beans) in your diet is one of the most impactfulthings you can do to combat climate change. Meanwhile, engaging in collective action (community-based events and volunteering with or donating to an environmental organization) will help cities increase access to parks and promote the use of clean energy.

Beyond what we can do on our own, governments and companies  can develop win-win policies for both well-being and the environment. Governments can implement more and better cycling infrastructure, invest in more green space, and make cities more walkable. Companies can offer more flexible teleworking policies and include donation matches to environmental organizations in their wellness programs. Recent research showed that more than 90% of employees connect their company’s climate actions to their own motivation and well-being. Finally, one of the best ways companies can improve well-being is to reduce the work week from 5 to 4 days. Large-scale studies in Iceland and the UK in 60+ companies saw significant improvements in well-being without productivity losses. The practice can also reduce CO2 emissions by 7 to 11%.

While we often take a pro-environmental action for fear of what we may lose, there’s another side of the coin – what we gain. So, the next time you are mulling over what you can do to increase your well-being, try one of these tips – odds are, you won’t regret it. The more you do, the better you’ll feel.  

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