The intersection of sustainability and wellbeing

At Go Well, we view sustainability as threefold: planet, people, and prosperity. We believe that in order to have a healthy, prosperous planet, we must have healthy, prosperous people – and vice versa. I’m sure you’ve heard of that old adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup”; in line with hie quote, we believe communities cannot take care of Papatūānuku if they themselves are burnt out and exhausted. Imagine: you’ve been sleeping poorly, eating badly, isolating yourself, and haven’t exercised in weeks – do you think you’d feel motivated to attend a climate protest, or a local clean up? To choose to walk or bike, over driving a car? To engage in challenging conversations with people about climate change? Likely not. If we want to take care of the planet, we need to take care of ourselves first.

In a beautiful display of reciprocity, when we nurture the planet, it nurtures us. Exposure to nature has been linked to a range of health benefits, including lower stress levels, improved mood, and reduced blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate. “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­being,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.” Furthermore, research has found that nature can help us feel a sense of connection – in a world of increasing isolation, nature can offer lonely people an alternative way of feeling connected. When we spend an afternoon tending to our garden or helping to restore a local waterway, we are taking care of the planet, and the planet is taking care of us.

Conversely, when we don’t nurture the planet, the implications for our wellbeing are wide-ranging and harrowing. A warming climate and increased severe weather events leads to increased food and water insecurity, worsening air quality, disruptions to employment and reduced access to services, and the spread of infectious diseases. As the temperature rises, so does climate anxiety, with a recent study of 10,000 youth across the work finding that nearly 62% were anxious about climate change. Furthermore, “exposure to environmental pollution has also been linked to an increased risk of depression” – I’m sure many of us have experienced the sinking feeling of walking through a city street covered in litter, or a waterway filled with plastic. The wellbeing of our planet is intrinsically tied to the wellbeing of our people.

At Go Well, we’re always looking for ways to encourage healthy habits in our staff, which is why we love Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW). MHAW is an annual wellbeing campaign that has been run by The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand since 1993. Each year, MHAW picks a theme for their campaign, which aims to serve as a reminder to New Zealanders to actively prioritise and nurture their mental health – not only during the campaign week, but all year long. This year’s theme was: ‘Five Days, Five Ways’ encouraging kiwis to use the five ways to wellbeing over the course of the work week.

  • Monday: Take notice/Me aro tonu.
    To mark Monday, our team added a journaling activity to our normal weekly check-in, writing answers to questions like: “how am I feeling in this moment?” and “what’s something I can do today that will bring me joy?”

Tuesday: Give/Tukua.
For Tuesday, our team gave to our local community by doing a clean up on our lunch breaks.

Wednesday: Be Active/Me kori tonu.
To encourage movement on Wednesday, our resident health and wellness champion, Kate, led us through a yoga class.

  • Thursday: Connect/Me whakawhanaunga.
    We ran the second day of our course, Beyond the Basics, on Thursday, so had plenty of opportunities to connect and engage with our attendees.
  • Friday: Keep Learning/Me ako tonu.
    On Friday, we encouraged our team to keep learning by trying a new book, podcast, or hobby.

In addition to celebrating campaigns like MHAW, we offer our employees a range of benefits to support their wellbeing, such as a nine-day fortnight, flexible working, access to counselling services, yoga classes, and quarterly wellness and yoga workshops. We believe this is an absolutely critical part of being a sustainable and successful business, which has a positive impact on people and the planet. If you’re a business interested in improving your health and wellbeing offerings, get in touch for some engaging solutions.

Written by Kate Lodge, Sustainability Consultant at Go Well Consulting.

Header image by Myles Tan on Unsplash.