Cool Your Brain, Warm Your Heart, and Set Your Soul on Fire: 7 Ways to Prevent Eco-Anxiety and Climate Doomerism

By Patrick Fleming

I recently asked a college professor friend what his students are like today. His answer was disturbing, “They are all depressed and hopeless.”

There is growing concern about the effect that global warming is having on our mental and even spiritual health. Studies are showing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness in the general population, especially among young people. Research published in the Lancet, interviewed 10,000 people, 16-25, in 10 countries.

Researchers found “a startlingly high rate of pessimism:” 45% worry about climate disasters affecting their daily life; 75% say the future is frightening; 56% agree with the statement, “Humanity is doomed;” 40% report being hesitant to have children, not wanting to bring children into a hotter, harsher world.

Here are 7 ways to maintain your mental and spiritual health as our planet heats up. In short, these practices help you to keep your brain cool, your heart warm, and set your soul on fire.

1. Find reasons for hope without denying the reality and trauma of global warming. There is plenty of bad news about climate change, and yet there are significant signs of hope. Progress is uneven – and there is also substantial resistance to that progress – and yet there are significant signs of hope. Focus on those signs to keep your brain cool and your soul hopeful.

2. Stay in the present moment. Resist obsessing about the future of the planet. When your mind heats up with anxiety, pause and focus on your breath, or on a prayer mantra, to return to the present moment. Avoid traumatic over-exposure to bad climate news. Stop doom-scrolling. Philip Aiken, a young eco-activist, recommends a 20% to 80% ratio: focus 20% on the climate problems, and 80% on the solutions.

3. Accept the reality of global warming. One of the definitions of mental health is living in reality. Climate change, and its cause in human activity, has been completely proven to be our new reality. Accepting this is a part of maintaining mental health. Being in denial, or living in the delusion that everything is normal and will be OK, is mentally and environmentally damaging.

4. Develop a personal plan of action on behalf of the planet. No matter how small the action, do something. It will help you and help the earth. Become Pro-Planet. Act Pro- Planet. Vote Pro-Planet. Action will prevent the paralysis of fear and helplessness that the enormity of global warming can inflict on you. But avoid being driven by false or excessive guilt. Guilt about your personal “carbon footprint” is bad for your mental health, and is a deceptive concept promoted by Big Oil to dodge their responsibility by dumping it on to you.

5. Keep your heart warm. Develop a compassion for all creatures, especially for the creatures threatened with extinction, or negatively impacted by climate change, including your fellow human beings. Resist letting your heart grow cold, indifferent, or hardened, a strong temptation with such a vast and complex problem.

6. Set your soul on fire by developing a new spiritual vision of nature, one which creates a passion to preserve and heal creation. Connect with Nature through your soul, let her soothe, encourage, and energize you. See our planet, our Mother Gaia, as a being to honor, respect, and live with in complete harmony, not as a force to dominate or a resource to exploit. Develop awe about the grandeur of the natural world, and how it reflects our Creator. When I am tempted to despair about the future, I go visit a local park where a bald eagle pair has surprisingly built a nest, and is hatching the next generations. The soaring majesty of these eagles always revives my soul.

7. Trust in the resilience of nature and in the resilience and creativity of humankind. In my novel, Gaia’s Revenge, I portray the two sides of Mother Nature: a destructive side that will turn against us, if we continue to abuse her, or the life-giving maternal side. The latter is the strongest part of Gaia. She desires abundant and diverse life, and retains a deep resilience which allows her to rebound and heal, if we only let her.

Humanity also possesses great resilience. Among all of Gaia’s creatures, we are the most adaptive and creative. We have the capacity to find ways to adapt to whatever comes in the future. We also have the ability to create solutions to the climate crisis. The future is not yet written. We still have the power to write it. We need to focus not only on saving our planet, but on protecting our minds as well.

So, keep your brain cool, your heart warm, and set your soul on fire.

Patrick Fleming is a psychotherapist and author of Gaia’s Revenge, a new cli-fi novel, from St. Louis, Missouri.

Check out our newest book, “Gaia’s Revenge,” a powerful novel about climate change and the future of our planet, as well as “Soul Light for the Dark Night: Daily Meditations of Healing from Trauma and Abuse.” Follow us on Facebook/Gaia’s Revenge by Patrick Fleming. Both available on HERE.

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