What do you think of when you hear the words Environmental Wellness? Do your thoughts immediately go to recycling, reducing emissions, and keeping our water clean? Those things are certainly part of Environmental Wellness, but there’s actually more to it than that.
Let’s take a look at what the environmental dimension of our wellness is all about.
What is Environmental Wellness?
Basically, environmental wellness takes a kind of three-pronged approach: first, according to UC Davis, (1) “Environmental wellness inspires us to live a lifestyle that is respectful of our surroundings. This realm encourages us to live in harmony with the Earth by taking action to protect it. Environmental well-being promotes interaction with nature and your personal environment.“
Let’s look at this first approach as the “big picture” view. Taking care of our environment helps ensure that the earth is a healthy place for us, our children, and our children’s children. Things that we can do involve the 3 R’s we’re all so familiar with (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), buying products that are made from sustainable resources, reducing toxins in the environment, and working to conserve our natural resources.
The next approach is directly related to the safety of our environment. The National Institutes of Health outlines several aspects of environmental wellness like making our homes healthier, reducing allergens, staying safe during hot weather, guarding against cold weather, air quality, testing our homes for toxic gases, and staying safe in the water. They actually have an Environmental Wellness Checklist (2) that you can download that lists different actions you can take to keep your environment safe for you and your family.
Last but certainly not least, let’s take a look at the definition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA (3) : “good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being.”
Making our home pleasant and stimulating (or perhaps less stimulating for those of us with noise, light, or chemical sensitivities) can have a huge impact on our overall wellness.
So how do we do that? Here are a couple of things that may help:
Ways to Make Our Homes a More Pleasant Environment
- Surround yourself with things you love (and get rid of the things you don’t).
- Keep clutter to a minimum.
- Use less-toxic cleaning products and ditch those chemical-laden air fresheners.
- Strategically place comfort items so that they’re within easy reach when you need them (i.e. a wicker basket near the sofa that holds blankets and your heating pad keeps things neat but makes them easily available).
- Break cleaning down into individual tasks so that you can just do one or two a day instead of trying to do everything at once. This helps you keep your space clean without wearing yourself out trying to keep it tidy.
- Remember that your home is your sanctuary and design your surroundings to make sure it feels like that to you.
Making Our Environment Support Our Well-Being
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the last part of our definition of Environmental Wellness – making sure our environment supports our well-being.
Of course, some of the things listed above do that, but there are some other things we can do as well.
One of those things is to make it easy and convenient to cook healthy meals. We do ourselves a huge favor if we set up our pantry with healthy options and make them easy to see. On the flip side, getting rid of those foods that don’t support our wellness efforts can have a huge impact as well.
Another thing that can help support our wellness efforts is to make it easy to exercise at home. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more than one piece of exercise equipment that ended up hardly ever being used because it was in an inconvenient place. Now I have a basket in my family room that holds all of my yoga equipment, and I keep all my exercise videos in my TV cabinet for easy access. Seeing my workout stuff sitting there reminds me that I need to exercise.
Whatever we use to work out, making it easily available can help make sure our environment supports our wellbeing.
Whether we’re talking about taking care of our environment, keeping our home or work areas safe, or coming up with systems to make our environment support our wellbeing, Environmental Wellness is vital to our overall wellness.
What things do you do to support the environmental dimension of wellness? Please share!