What if wellbeing starts with the planet?

Posted
22/08/2019

I’m acutely aware of what a big question I’ve agreed to take on, writing this blog. Wellbeing and planet are two things that really matter to me, like really matter. It hasn’t always been like that though.

overheating planet

Prior to 2007, I’d have told you that my wellbeing was directly correlated to the amount and quality of exercise I was getting and my diet. That simple. After 2007 I learnt (the hard way) that my wellbeing was way more than that. It included my mental and emotional wellbeing, and both sleep and rest were just as important as exercise and diet. Feeling aligned to my values and purpose in life and work also had an impact on my overall sense of wellbeing.

In 2007 I experienced burnout. I was expecting too much from myself. My tank was metaphorically empty and I had been running on an empty engine that overheated.  I went to bed one evening fine except for a sore wrist and woke unable to move. I had rheumatoid arthritis in all my joints, an inflammatory condition. Chinese medicine practitioners would call it a condition of heat.

This all sounds pretty similar to what’s happening with the planet, right? We’re increasingly taking more and more resources and not giving enough back to rebalance.

Such was my addiction (back then) to doing, that I rushed myself back into work, taking only a small break. I discovered acupuncture which massively catapulted my recovery time and before you know it normal service resumed except for one thing, I had now experienced acupuncture and my body was starting to talk to me in an altogether different way.

I became acutely aware of the link between my mental and emotional wellbeing and my physical wellbeing. I noticed how treatment wasn’t just treating the symptoms. It was impacting my entire wellbeing. Sure, my symptoms were getting better, but my sense of wellbeing was far greater than I could remember it being. Day to day health gripes I’d ‘lived with’ for a long time, started to adjust themselves.

‘What an earth is this stuff?’ I asked my practitioner. ‘How can it be making other things better when I’m coming to you to treat the arthritis?’

‘We treat the whole person when we use acupuncture, not just the symptoms,’ he replied.

I became so fascinated with the effects of acupuncture and its results, I’d go on to study a degree in it. One of the most important things I learnt in my studies was the Western medicine concept of homeostatic balance.

Homeostasis: [hoh-mee-uh-stey-sis] (noun): the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function. 

Which basically means for the human body, we’re constantly looking to regain balance (health) by making adjustments in coordination with the whole person. In other words, the body has a brilliant capacity to naturally heal itself if we make sure our modern lifestyles and our modern minds don’t get in the way.

Acupuncture works in much the same way. We choose points to rebalance the system. Sometimes just one or two sophisticated point choices can bring about wonderful wellbeing to a human that’s been particularly unbalanced for some time (without side effects or toxins).

So what does this all mean for the planet? In my endeavour to consider the wellbeing of the planet first, I’m curious about this notion of homeostasis. If it works on a human and an animal level, surely it can work on a planetary level?

If I therefore apply the theory of Chinese Medicine to the planet, I might diagnose the following symptoms;

  • a significant presence and growing indicator of heat
  • an underlying deficiency of yin (equivalent to water in our language) and fluids – the tank is getting empty
  • scattered and frenetic energy
  • excess gases
  • disturbed spirit.

If I were to treat the planet with acupuncture, I would be looking to the underlying causes, to nurture the roots not the branches. The planet needs to cool down, it needs a rest, it’s burnt out, running on empty and has almost nothing else left to give. It’s depleted itself of nearly all its resources and its engine is overheating as a result.

So bearing that in mind, and knowing that as a human being of this planet I have a part to play in its wellness, what could I do to take care better care of the planet in order to take better care of me?

  1. Consume less – consider the resources that I’m using (so the planet needs to offer less). Where am I in excess and how can I bring myself back to better balance? What can I live without? Reduce my spending and practise being grateful for the simple things in life. (A well-researched route to better mental health.)
  2. Adapt my diet – consider the food I’m consuming. What food can I buy (and how much is enough to maintain homeostatic balance for me and planet?). It’s well reported that reducing meat, eating more plants and buying from ethical organic and biodiverse farms is a good way to support CO2 emissions. (That also means less crap in my body, healthier gut, better mental health.)
  3. Rethink my shopping habits – how can I shop responsibly in order to reduce the amount of non-recyclable or reusable plastic and reduce what goes to landfill? Change my shop to a vegetable box or find an independent self-weigh supplier and take my own boxes. (Doing good leads to feeling good.)
  4. Ethical shopping – buy local and from brands that are making a public commitment to sustainability for the planet and good of all (doing good leads to feeling good) and you’re likely to spend less, meaning more money for the things that you really love (more joy for you).
  5. Plant more trees and protect woods and wildlife. The more trees on the planet the more we’re able to rebalance the excess of CO2 emissions. (And tree hugging has been scientifically proved to be good for you. As well as all the health benefits of having something or someone beyond yourself to care for.)

I’m pretty sure that when I spend more time in nature or connecting with humans I love being around, I’m topped up way more than any shopping spree, social media binge, or excessive eating ever makes me feel. Long-term gain over short-term (and empty) pleasure.

We’ve become so heavy in our lifestyles, heavy with stuff, heavy with pressure, heavy with workload, heavy with resources, heavy with overeating, heavy with overspending, heavy with excesses that we’ve forgotten how to live in balance.

The planet needs to rebalance and we each have a part to play in that by taking responsibility for ourselves.

Maybe, just maybe, if we really did start thinking about making the planet healthy again, we might just notice a direct correlation to our own wellbeing.

Jennifer Potter

Associate

Highly experienced coach, consultant, and wellness expert offering an integrated approach to wellbeing at work

Jennifer Potter