Have you got Eco Fatigue? Maybe it’s time to take a chill pill

Have you ever looked at the plastic cutlery that came uninvited with your takeaway and felt a sense of guilt? Concerned that one day these plastics may make their way into the ocean and assault an innocent sea turtle after leaving your hands? 

Have you ever placed your finger on a light switch as you exit the room, knowing turning the light off is probably the right thing to do, but decided not to because some professor from some university says switching electricity on and off is actually worse for the environment?

There is so much information and pressure on the internet about saving our planet. We’re constantly bombarded with new statistics and studies that sometimes contradict the old. We can’t seem to escape the passive-aggressive marketing tactics that induce nothing but shame and anxiety.

But as they say at 8Shades: “every small step counts”. So we carry on and keep contributing in our own little ways. And oh, just when we’re about to pat ourselves on the backs for bringing our own new refillable water bottle to the gym, we hear three alphabets: BPA – and all of a sudden we’re regretting our decisions because despite our eco intention, despite how fit we are, drinking out of the wrong bottle could still give us cancer.

Enter “eco fatigue”.

Eco fatigue (or eco anxiety) is a type of learned helplessness, which is a negative state of mind that arises when a person feels they have no control over events and situations, according to an American psychologist named Martin Seligman. This feeling is what makes people turn away from a problem that cries for action. In this case, the action would be to save the planet.

The unknown of the new eco realm. The growing uncertainty about the effectiveness of our individual acts. Plus the nagging fear that our efforts will never be enough. Suddenly, green is starting to look like grey, and we feel so overwhelmed that we end up doing nothing. 

It’s natural to want to tune out. And when eco fatigue strikes, perhaps the best way to shut it down is with a chill pill, and a gentle reminder to not to be so harsh on ourselves. It’s going to be a long haul, so it’s okay if someone accidentally prints single-sided, it’s okay if someone forgets to wash their duvet at 30 degrees. If you jump off the bandwagon, just hop right back on and keep going (until the official cure for eco fatigue comes along). 

Because anything is better than nothing. 

And every little step, does count. 

Take a walk on the wild side

Originated in Japan, forest bathing is an outdoor activity where people embark on a slow, aimless, and therapeutic walk in the forest. As sleazy as it may sound, studies have shown forest bathing can be very beneficial to our health and mental wellbeing. British doctors are even considering prescribing it to their patients! 

The Healing Power or Mother Nature

The minute we unplug from the hustle and bustle and immerse ourselves in the forest, we are greeted by a refreshing boost of oxygen, as well as a chemical released by the greens called phytoncides, which is known to enhance our immune system. And as we slow down our steps and let go of our thoughts, our heart rate and blood pressure will also drop to accommodate the relaxed state of mind. 

Research conducted by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, a professor at Chiba University, shows a leisure walk in the forest can lower the production of cortisol (our stress hormones) by 12.4% compared to urban walks and therefore lower our anxiety. Spending time outdoors is also known to help increase serotonin and endorphins (our happy hormones), leading to better mood, better creativity, and better mental health. 

Now the next question is, how do we actually do “forest bathing”?

Let’s Take a Walk Through

According to The Nature and Forest Therapy Association, a typical forest bathing session will take about 2.5 hours, and the ideal locations are the ones that are easy and pleasant to walk on, have places for you to sit and rest, and have access to natural waterways. 

There are no rules really. Just wear comfortable clothes and shoes on the day. And remember to turn off your phone and switch on your five senses. 

Start your walk slowly, one step at a time. Take in the tranquillity. Notice the different shapes and shades of green. Press pause. Listen to the leaves rustling harmoniously. Feel your hand pulsating on a random tree trunk. Follow the tip of your nose as it traces the faint floral scent amongst the damp grass. 

When you start to feel distracted or tired, take a seat and rest for up to 20 minutes. Then plant your feet back on the ground. Surrender yourself to the gentle pull of gravity once again, and feel the crisp air lifting your spirit. Be present. Be mindful. Acknowledge what forest bathing has to offer, and take it all in. 

Find Out More

There are now about 1,500 accredited forest bathing guides worldwide, including Amanda Yik, founder of Shinrin Yoku Hong Kong. To discover more about forest bathing in Hong Kong and where to go, visit here.