Will Going "Green" Make You Happier?

An eco-friendly lifestyle may benefit the environment--and your emotional health

Scientists such as Edward O. Wilson and Stephen Kellert have suggested that there are other psychological reasons that people who are “biophilic” -- that is, who affiliate with nature -- are both happier and pro-environment. Outdoor activities such as hiking and bird-watching, Kellert wrote in the book The Biophilia Hypothesis, are associated with creativity, reduced stress and peace of mind. University of Rochester psychologists reported this year that being in nature -- or even thinking about it -- boosted people’s energy. And in the December 2009 issue of the journal Ecopsychology, Kasser argued that activities such as gardening and buying food from local farmers are both ecologically sustainable and may further psychological needs associated with wellbeing -- namely security, connectedness, competence and autonomy.

“The more people reported engaging in behaviors that were good for the environment, the higher their level of psychological wellbeing,” Kasser says. “It may well be that happiness does lead people to behave in a more positive environmental way. But we also think that there are certain things about living in a positive environmental way that do a relatively good job of satisfying your psychological needs, and that’s ultimately what’s necessary in order to feel happy.”

Other green mood boosters include downsizing and growing your own food. Check out "Easy Eco-Friendly Changes That Can Make You Happier" for more tips.

Need more inspiration to make some changes? Spend time looking out the window (or getting outside) and noticing the sky, trees and animals--even city-dwelling creatures such as pigeons, Frantz says. Why? She’s found that people are more likely to engage in environmentally responsible behaviors if they feel an emotional connection to nature than if they just think eco-friendliness is a good idea. “You’re more likely to act on environmental concerns if there’s an emotional oomph to it,” Frantz says.

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