The Roller Coaster of Eco-Emotions: Diagnosing your green feels
Have you ever felt guilty about forgetting to pack your reusable bags and even guiltier for having to pull that plastic bag to put your groceries in it?
Remember that time when you forcefully avoided thinking about the trash bag filled with disposable plates after having that birthday party at the park for your son?
How about when you felt over the moon because you went that extra mile and bought your groceries at the farmers’ market?
Ups and downs!
And you’re not alone in feeling these things through your eco-journey.
I’d like to call this the roller coaster of eco-emotions.
It is very common to encounter these emotions in your eco-friendly journey. So, what are we talking about here?
Negative eco-emotions: Guilt, Frustration, Embarrassment, and more
Negative eco-emotions are very common these days, especially with more frequent climate-related phenomena such as heat waves and severe storms.
It mostly affects younger generations, kids, teenagers, and young adults, who feel more and more responsible for impacting the future and rescuing our planet .
Negative eco-emotions can range from mild guilt and embarrassment to major psychological reactions like trauma, anxiety, and depression . Often, these emotions are felt after hearing bad news about the destruction of an environmental resource, such as coral reefs’ bleach.
These emotions are not diseases. Even severe climate anxiety and depression. They are merely an understandable and natural reaction to the intense environmental problems that surround us .
Consequences of negative eco-emotions
Negative eco-emotions can lead people to feel powerless, helpless, and sometimes paralyzed. This means that they feel the urgency of the situation and can’t do anything about it.
This paralysis can affect several aspects of one’s life. Especially for young adults who are still figuring out their role in life. It can lead them to more confusion about choosing their profession. It might also lead them to question big life decisions like starting a family and having kids.
Positive eco-emotions: Pride, Optimism, Motivation, and more
Positive eco-emotions arise when people succeed in choosing the eco-friendly option and in accomplishing an eco-friendly task. These are good feelings related to the ultimate goal of protecting the environment through these actions .
Pride and joy can be experienced after participating in a climate-related event, such as a beach cleaning day, or DIY workshop.
Other positive emotions such as motivation and optimism can be felt after hearing good news related to climate issues. For instance, hearing that a certain country bans single-use plastic or that scientists have found a way to restore the coral reefs.
Consequences of positive eco-emotions
While positive emotions can generally have positive consequences on the eco-friendly journey and can generate motivation and empowerment, if not well managed and acknowledged, it can lead to unintended consequences of reducing your eco-effort, a phenomenon that is referred to as ‘moral licensing.
- Eco-emotions are real and should be acknowledged, understood, and embraced for a better and more balanced eco-journey.
- Negative eco-emotions can manifest as guilt, shame, and embarrassment and can get as serious as anxiety and depression.
- Positive emotions can be experienced as pride, joy, optimism, and motivation.
- Both positive and negative emotions have consequences on our well-being and on our behaviors.
- It is important to identify eco-emotions when we experience them
- Identifying these emotions is the first step to dealing with them and channeling them in the right direction
Hope you enjoyed this blog post!
Stay tuned for more posts on how to harness the power of our psyche to facilitate and enhance our eco-friendly journey!
Keep the green vibes going!
- Pihkala, P., Climate anxiety. 2019, Suomen mielenterveysseura.
- Pihkala, P., Toward a taxonomy of climate emotions. Frontiers in climate, 2022: p. 199.