Blog Post

Links Between Wellbeing and the Environment

Earlier this year the Network of Wellbeing (NOW) launched a free online Wellbeing Database, which offers an opportunity to access and share resources about wellbeing, to enable learning and collaboration. Ultimately, the intention of the Wellbeing Database is to strengthen individual and community wellbeing in practice. The Wellbeing Database continues to grow, and now includes links to a rich and wide variety of videos, reports, research, guides and toolkits. Therefore, we have decided to curate some suggestions of the best resources in different categories in our Wellbeing Database.

We have ten categories in total in our Wellbeing Database, and we will start with looking specifically at the category of Environment and Wellbeing. This follows last month’s celebrations of World Environment Day, and is clearly a vital topic to consider when looking at wellbeing from a holistic and longer term perspective. The environment supports our lives and is therefore vital for our wellbeing.

We can at times take for granted all the services that the environment contributes to our quality of life, yet there are many reasons to appreciate the gifts given to us by nature. Not only is the natural environment vital for sustainable life on our planet in the longer term; it has been shown that taking care of the planet is good for our immediate health and wellbeing levels too. So, here at NOW we believe that if we wish for healthy people and happy communities, we should also make sure we are focused on a sustainable planet. Check out some of the resources below to find out more about the valuable connection between wellbeing and the environment.

Documentaries and Videos

Generally, many people in Western societies sometimes seem to have lost their connection to the natural world. To remember and help you become inspired to reconnect with nature, I’d recommend two documentaries by the famous photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Home and Planet Ocean. Both are outstanding in sharing a deep immersion in the joys of living on our wondrous planet, whether from a bird’s eye view or through submersion in our vital seas. Contemplating beautiful pictures of our “home” and then seeing the damage that is often caused to natural beauty, one understands with the heart that we should do something to tackle the big environmental challenges currently facing our whole society.

It seems the time is ripe to come to a conscious decision that “Enough is Enough”. This is the title of another video in our Wellbeing Database. This video is based in the best-selling book of the same title by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill, and it highlights some strategies which could be used to shape the economy in a way that acknowledges the importance of the environment. When looking for next steps in how to tackle the challenges highlighted it could also be inspiring to watch “The Story of Solutions”. This video, produced by The Story of Stuff Project, shares a vision in which the goal of the economy is not “more” but “better” – better health, better employment and a better chance to survive within the natural limits of the planet.

E-books, Reports, and Research

For those who prefer a reading to watching videos, there are two interesting e-books I’d recommend from those collated so far in our Wellbeing Database; first, “World on the Edge: How to prevent environmental and economic collapse”, written by Lester R. Brown from the Earth Policy Institute, and second, “Great Transition: The promise and lure of the times ahead”, produced by Paul Raskin from the Tellus Institute. Both of these books take a solutions-based approach, and create a positive vision to inspire us to cooperate in working towards a more sustainable planet.

The Wellbeing Database contains a wide variety of written material, including e-books, research and reports. Some of these resources analyse the challenges we face and others explore the potential solutions. Below I have provided a list of the resources which I have found the most useful for understanding the relationship between our wellbeing and the environment:

Many of these resources share powerful suggestions for solutions to the environmental challenges facing us, and a way towards caring for wellbeing of ourselves, our communities, and the planet. Another possibility for solutions could come from “Good Living” or “Living Well” philosophies that are rooted in many indigenous cultures. In a previous post here you will find more information about this alternative view of progress. as well as links to some related resources from our Wellbeing Database.

Finally, in terms of written material, I’d like to highlight a few important links to reasources based on a corrective as well as preventive and personal approach: Eco-therapy. Eco-therapy is an intervention that improves mental and physical health and wellbeing by supporting people to be active outdoors. Two reports help to present us with the big picture of this new model: “Feel better outside, feel better inside: Ecotherapy for mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery” and “Making sense of ecotherapy”. These resources help to highlight the importance of getting active and in a way which also helps us to connect to the natural environment.

Guides, Toolkits and best practices

It is important to identify positive changes which can be made in the connection between wellbeing and the environment, which can happen at many levels; personal, community and societal. As individuals we have different and particular strategies for learning, depending or our personal circumstances, strengths and values. In a similar way, communities are particular areas with different geographies and values. So, in order to change our societies it is important to look at the systems and structures governing our lives whilst also acknowledging the context of our personal and community circumstances.

One structural area with great potential for change is the way we engage with and support young people, and this is highlighted in a resource entitled “Youth X Change. Climate change and lifestyles guidebook”, produced by UNESCO & UNEP. This resource aims to promote sustainable lifestyles among youth (15-24 years) through education, dialogue, awareness raising and capacity building.

If you are keen to integrate environmental awareness into education then you may also enjoy the following resource: “Games to save the planet: A toolbox of arts-based environmental education activities”. This is a booklet published by Transition Scotland & Movingsounds to help Transition groups in their work creating positive change in their communities.

When attempting to change behaviour it is always valuable to have examples of best practice and case studies. The aim of this FAO toolkit on “Reducing the food wastage footprint” is to showcase concrete examples of good practices for food loss and waste reduction, while pointing to information sources, guidelines and pledges favouring food wastage reduction. This is a valuable resource for individuals and communities alike.

The Importance of Resilience

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to the concept of resilience, which is a word that can be used to refer to our ability to adapt to environmental changes and to retain a quality of life. The Environment Agency offers an interesting toolkit, entitled: “Under the Weather: Improving health, wellbeing and resilience in a changing climate.” The aim of this toolkit is to assist Health and Wellbeing Boards in integrating climate change adaptation into the local health economy. If you would like to learn more about resilience in practice, this report provides examples of practical tools and guidance to help build “healthy, sustainable and resilient communities.” And if you are actually wondering, “Resilient Against What?:” you may like to check out this Post Carbon Institute report about “How Leading U.S. Municipalities Are Understanding and Acting on Resilience”.

The above selection of resources help to demonstrate the important connection between wellbeing and the environment, and also share ways we can help to build upon, protect and celebrate this connection. To search for more useful resources check out our Wellbeing Database, where you can browse in different categories and even submit your own suggested resources.

This post was written by Jesús Martin, Research Intern and Wellbeing Ambassador. The first image used in this post belongs to and is being shared courtesy of Ian Sane. The second image is of a community garden in Totnes, and the photo was taken by a member of the NOW team.

Share this post

Comments (0)

Leave a comment