Our natural environment, with its flora and fauna, has always had the innate capacity to repair itself and the beings it nestles until anthropogenic activities like deforestation and excessive construction began. Now, with years of resource depletion, the environment’s ability to heal has reduced significantly. With this downward spiral, the well-being of humans has also deteriorated.
The outside-inside connect
Bengaluru-based Elisha Pinto says that environmental wellness is a dimension of wellness that is less-spoken of. “It can be defined as being in an environment that promotes good health and a blissful state of mind,” says Pinto who works as a life coach assistant at wellness and fitness company Noom.
The environmental actions that are taken today have a significant impact on the future. Despite several pro-environmental groups sensitising people about the repercussions of negative acts, many have dismissed the idea of environmentally conscious living.
“People don’t discuss this due to lack of awareness,” says Pinto. “Sustainability, conservation, respect, recycling, and conscious living are the core principles of environmental wellness. Poor air quality and polluted water bodies have a direct impact on the health of people. Besides, it also increases the number of premature births and deaths globally.”
According to Pinto, fixing the outside is the first step to repairing oneself. “External factors like the surroundings and weather strongly influence one’s physical and mental wellness. But most people focus on themselves so much that they care too little about the environment they live in,” he says.
Visible effects of change of scenery
When Mumbai-based Prateeksha Rajan moved to Potsdam in Germany for a three-month traineeship, little did she know that the shift would improve her overall well-being. “There were far fewer people and vehicles in Potsdam,” Rajan says. “Another major difference was the air quality of Potsdam and Mumbai. I had dust allergy and fell sick with a wheeze every other week when I was at my hometown, but I did not sneeze even once during my time in Germany.”
Her company encourages its employees to use public transport by giving out discounts on the monthly tram card. The large parks and hike trails on the outskirts and well-constructed footpaths are additional features that encourage people to walk instead of drive. “I explored the city mostly on foot which I cannot imagine doing back home,” Rajan says.
In fact, she says she lost a few extra kilos during her time in Germany without going on strict diets or fitness regimes. This marked transformation convinced her that the environment that one lives in has a major impact on one’s mental and physical wellbeing. She also got into the habit of waking up early just to take walks amidst nature and admire the beauty of the well-preserved environment without the noise of loud horns or the chattering of crowds.
Back in Mumbai, Rajan began volunteering to clean up public areas in her hometown. “My friends and I cleaned up our local park and this not only brought in a lot of people, but also instilled the idea of conscious living among many.” According to her, people get a sense of responsibility in preserving the environment when they see the collective effort put in by others.
Weaving sustainability for a safe and healthy future
For Aambal, a clothing store located in Kerala’s Fort Kochi, eco-fashion is a small yet pivotal step in sustainable living. The fashion sector is one of the most polluting industries in the world, says founder Sandeep Johnson. “Eco-clothing is all about upcycling natural materials, recycling, and using organic cotton to produce garments that are not only environment-friendly but also skin-safe,” he says.
“In the aftermath of the 2018 floods, we helped revive four weavers’ societies at Chendamangalam. We procured handloom from them and give it to designers who added value to it through their art,” Johnson says. They use natural dyes for the fabric with the detailing usually hand embroidered, he adds.
Fabric devoid of synthetic dyes is excellent for people with sensitive skin and allergies. Moreover, plants have a positive impact on one’s physical and mental health.
“I believe we should be intentional about protecting our environment,” says Johnson. “When we do our bit to preserve nature and its resources, we are already on the road to our wellbeing. It can be something as small as reusing old fabric.”
Simple environment-friendly habits not only help in preserving nature but also the overall wellness of human beings. “A stroll in the park, gardening or just growing indoor succulents can have positive changes in a person,” Pinto says. “Just being outdoors, in a calm and serene environment significantly alleviates stress hormones in the body.”
Pinto suggests these simple yet effective steps towards environmental wellbeing:
- Meal prepping saves wastage
- Recycling saves raw materials and reduces our environmental footprint
- Being conservative: That is, respecting the environment and engaging in activities that promote a healthy lifestyle; reducing the carbon footprint; recycling; and reducing wastage of non-renewable resources
- Taking an active part in volunteering for clean-up drives and creating a community that takes responsibility for the surrounding goes a long way in the wellness journey
- Being intentional about being less wasteful by taking small steps like reusing old clothing or repurposing containers