What is Environmental Wellness?
Environmental wellness involves the ability and capacity to study, work, and live in a safe, clean environment. A healthy environment consists of clean air, water, nutritious food, adequate shelter, and personal safety that are maintained and promoted. The relationship between the environment and humanity is one of interdependence with each affecting and influencing the other. It promotes interaction with nature and creating an enjoyable personal environment.
A core principle of environmental wellness is respect for all nature and the species living in it. Our own efforts of respecting nature, the environment, and our personal spaces can help to improve the natural ecosystems and well-being. This will help to produce better environmental outcomes and can improve how you interact with the world around you.
Environment can be divided into 3 categories:
Why Should I Care About Environmental Wellness?
It is important to try to balance and connect with our environments and the natural world. Our personal wellness relies on the wellness of our environments and it can be challenging to reach your full wellness potential when areas of your environment are unhealthy. A healthy environment will promote and enhance personal health and improves future health of the self, community, and world.
Our environments influence our identities, our productivity levels, and our mental health (The Environmental Dimension of Self-Care, 2020). Healthy and supportive environments can have a positive impact on our mood, the betterment of ecosystems, and help form connections to the community.
The Environmental Dimension of Self-Care. (2020, July 25). LivingUpp. https://www.livingupp.com/blog/the-environmental-dimension-of-self-care
The Built Environment
The built environment is the human-made design of the homes and communities in which people live, work, and play. This area may include the design and layout of homes, neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, and other areas. The built environment has a direct influence on your sense of well-being. It can impact our mood, our behaviours, and our health.
We often have more control over the built environment of our homes. Ideally, we want to make our living environment as comfortable and conducive to our desired level of rest and enjoyment as possible.
How to strive for a healthy and healing home environment:
- Cultivate Comfort:
- Creating a safe and comfortable space can be therapeutic and help you return to a state of calm when energy is depleted
- Incorporate candles, warm blankets, natural lighting, plants
- Clear the Clutter:
- When our space is cluttered, our mind is cluttered. Clutter can create more stress and anxiety than it does healing and relaxation
- Try taking small steps towards improvement
- Fold the laundry directly after it is done
- Set a 20-minute timer and see how much you can tidy in that time
- Encourage social connectedness
- Set up your living environment to encourage welcoming and visiting of friends or family
- i.e., have multiple places to sit comfortably, open your space up to see everyone
- Prevent injuries and promote safety:
- Keeping walking paths in your home free from clutter and objects to prevent tripping and slipping hazards to keep you safe
- Access to natural and green spaces
- Natural colours and elements in the home can promote similar effects to being in nature
- Add textures, patterns, and plants to your home
- Consider decorating to bring maximum happiness and rest
- Colours and designs can have a different impact for everyone
- Target colours that elicit certain moods for yourself (favourites, happiness, etc.)
- Decorate your space with photos of loved ones, your favourite moments or items, or whatever makes you happy
References (Built Environment)
Ottawa Public Health. (2020). Health and the Built Environment. https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/health-and-the-built-environment-.aspx#What-makes-a-healthy-built-environment
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. (2018, May 23). The Connection Between Your Home and Your Sense of Well-Being. UW Health. https://www.uwhealth.org/health-wellness/the-connection-between-your-home-and-your-sense-of-well-being/52003
The Natural Environment
The natural environment is the naturally occurring living and inanimate elements all around us. These elements include air, water, earth, plant life, and wildlife. They interact organically to form ecosystems which impact the health and wellness of all species, including humans. It is everyone’s responsibility to care for and protect our environment to ensure a healthy, sustainable living space for all.
Respect for the Natural Environment
Part of environmental wellness is respect and protection of the natural environment and the planet. There are small steps that anyone can take to start to protect the environment now.
- Consume less: Whether it is food or the purchase of unneeded items and gadgets
- Compost: Keeps trash out of the waste stream and provides free, rich soil to your gardens
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Single-use plastics have a detrimental effect on our soil, ocean, and marine life – opt for reusable
- Buy local: This limits the pre-packaging and promotes sustainability within your communities
- Conserve water: Fix leaks, shorten your shower times, collect and use rainwater for your plants
- Conserve electricity: Maintain heating, ventilating, and cooling systems, seal all leaks of windows and doors, go energy efficient
Exposure to Nature
Substantial evidence has illustrated the benefits of being outside and experiencing natural environments. Exposure to nature promotes pleasant feelings and emotional and physical well-being. There are correlations with reductions in blood pressure, heart rate, muscular tension, and productions of stress hormones (Environmental, 2020). Green spaces, such as parks and woodlands, and blue spaces, such as rivers and coasts, are able to recharge people’s attentional capacities, reduce stress, and enhance mood (White et al., 2013) with links to reductions in anger, fear, and stress.
Create a Natural Space Indoors
The greatest effects of nature occur when physically emersed in a natural setting, such as walking outdoors, hiking, listening to the waves crash on the beach, etc. However, there are positive effects that occur from designing your personal spaces with natural elements.
Similar to walking in nature, viewing pictures and colours of nature and landscapes can produce physiological benefits, improve concentration, and reduce stress (Ralph, 2019). Creating natural spaces or spaces that include colours and pictures of natural spaces can help to create a nurturing environment at home.
- Provide a visual connection to the natural world
- They improve air quality, productivity, and overall well-being
- The act of caring for plants and seeing them thrive is beneficial
- Consider plants that provide nourishment – herb garden
- Consider opting for natural materials when designing your spaces
- Texture and pattern variations that we often see in nature
- Materials such as bamboo, wood, stone, slate
Texture & Colour
- Natural elements in home décor can have an impact on wellbeing
- Look for textures and shapes that represent nature
- Honeycomb shapes, soft blankets and furniture
- Colour schemes found in the natural world
- Desert: chalk, sand, grey, green
- Sunsets: burnt orange, light pink, deep purple and yellow
- Forest: green, brown
- Fresh air is essential to our well-being
- Open the windows
- Utilize candles and diffusers to bring the smells of nature inside – eucalyptus, mint, lavender
- Open windows and blinds to let as much natural light in during the day as possible
- Place desks and seating near windows
- Mirrors can be used to bounce light around