One of the areas of interest to the Mindfulness Association and the wider mindfulness fields is Engaged Mindfulness. By this we mean applying our mindfulness meditation practice to how we may feel about the state of the world on a social and environmental level and exploring ways of contributing positively through compassionate action. So, what does the research have to say on this topic?
Wamsler (2018) reviews and assesses current research on how mindfulness may be linked to climate adaptation and points to a lack of relevant research. Climate adaptation is described as adapting to increasing risk and climate change. Wamsler also conducted a survey to complement the literature review about how individual mindfulness is linked to climate adaptation. This survey found that levels of higher individual mindfulness correspond to increased motivation to take (or support) climate adaptation actions. The paper concludes that mindfulness has the potential to facilitate climate adaptation at all scales, individual to collective.
Stollberg & Jonas (2021) is a review of research focussing on the emotional processes of individuals and groups which explain motivated responses to the global threat of climate crisis. They propose that climate anxiety can be reduced by mindfulness, connectedness to nature and a sense of common humanity. They suggest that collective emotions of anger, guilt and ‘being moved’ can increase positive individual and collective engagement and that working in groups can help to reduce anxiety and when combined with pro-environmental norms can promote pro-environmental action.
Baudon & Jachens (2021) reviews research literature on approaches to eco-anxiety. They identified several themes across interventions including: fostering inner resilience, encouraging clients to take action, helping clients find social connection and emotional support by joining groups, and connecting clients with nature. Fostering inner resilience included self-care and cognitive, emotion-focussed and meaning-focussed interventions, including shifting from catastrophising to a more balanced perspective and fostering optimism and hope. They found that the interventions targeted different layers of an individual’s wellbeing, from inner experiences to connecting with others and connecting with the natural world. They recommend interventions that are holistic, multi-pronged and grief informed, which include eco-anxiety focussed group work.
To counter the lack of research specific to climate anxiety, there is a growing and convincing body of research, including several meta-analyses and systematic reviews that mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety in general.
The engaged mindfulness approach we follow, based on Joanna Macy’s (2012) spiral of the Work That Reconnects, fits well with the research findings so far. This approach is based on practising mindfulness meditation and reflection together and then sharing our experiences with each other. The process begins with resourcing and nourishing ourselves with joy and gratitude, before turning mindfully towards what is difficult in the world with mindful awareness. From here we look together for a new perspective from which we can mindfully and practically go forth. To find out more or to join a course, please click here.
Written by Heather Regan-Addis
Heather Regan-Addis is a Founder Member and Director of the Mindfulness Association.
Heather delivers training for the Mindfulness Association on our two Post Graduate Master’s degree courses as well as on our regular courses in Mindfulness, Compassion, Insight and on our Teacher training programmes.
We have an Introduction to Compassion Retreat weekend coming up on 23-25 September, in the wonderful peaceful Samye Ling Tibetan Centre for World Peace in the south of Scotland. Find out more about that HERE
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Baudon & Jachens, 2021. A Scoping Review of Interventions for the Treatment of Eco-Anxiety.
Macy & Johnstone, 2012 (Revised Ed. 2022). Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power.
Wamsler, 2018. Mind the Gap: The role of mindfulness in adapting to increasing risk and climate change.
Stollberg & Jonas, 2021. Existential threat as a challenge for individual and collective engagement: Climate Change and the motivation to act.
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