Sustainable Wellbeing may not be a term that you have heard before, but it sure sounds great doesn’t it? "Sustainable" – can be sustained, unlike this pace at work that doesn't feel at all sustainable. And "Wellbeing", “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”(1). Now, what if we expand that definition of Sustainability to also include the meaning that relates to Environmental Sustainability. Where we mean that human actions cause little to no damage to the environment (2) or may even be restorative to environmental systems?
Now the idea becomes pretty mind-blowing.
Can we actually find personal wellness, looking after our mental and physical health AND at the same time, do what is right for the planet?
This is the concept of Sustainable Wellbeing. It is living at the intersection of environmental sustainability and personal wellness. It is seeking balance for ourselves, while working towards solutions that build resilience in human and ecological communities.
It means that as we look at taking care of our own personal wellness, the physical and mental, we look beyond ourselves as just individuals. We start to see our wellness as part of, and tied to, the wellness of the human community and the planet’s ecosystems. And this actually feels really good to acknowledge.
It means that we are seeking wellbeing for all. Wellbeing for us, for others, and for the environment. It is interesting and exciting to expand our search for personal wellness to include the Sustainable part. That means we can sustain the actions, and that it is also building sustainability for the planet and our communities.
Sustainable Wellbeing is about finding the deep connection that we all have with the natural world and allow this to fuel us, to show us that we are enough, as beings of this earth.
Mary Oliver describes this sentiment in her poem, Wild Geese.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (3)
Sustainable Wellbeing means that we understand ourselves as an integral part of this world. It allows us to expand wellbeing beyond our individual needs and acknowledge that it really only comes from wellbeing that is grounded in the wellbeing of the planet’s ecosystems, and all life, as well as the need for equity, social justice and resilient communities.
We know that where these overlap we are glimpsing true Sustainability.
Here we find that we have satisfaction with our lives, our relationships with others and with the environment. We are grounded in our connections and to our purpose.
Personal: understanding our need to be healthy and happy and finding the sources of health and happiness in our own lives. Download my free resource, the Sustainable Wellbeing Starter Kit.
Community: being a part of a community where we contribute and give and also where we know others are there for us.
Environment: ensuring that our actions align with our beliefs and desires for ecological sustainability.
Sustainable Wellbeing is not as elusive as you might think. It happens all the time, and when you come across it, you find yourself in a great place. Whenever you do something that benefits both your wellness and that of others and the planet you are there!
Did you feel it when you shopped at your local farmer’s market? Didn’t that feel great to get healthy, local food, support your local producers and reduce the distance that your food travels? You bet it did! Now, how can we make this affordable and accessible to all?
That’s what we are seeking, and finding plenty of examples on how to get there.
Check out the 3 Flourishing Things section of this blog for plenty of examples that will inspire you to build more Sustainable Wellbeing in your own life, community and environment.
(1) Lexico. (n.d.). Wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/well-being
(2) Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Sustainable. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/learner-english/sustainable
(3) Oliver, M. (2004). Wild geese: selected poems. Hexham, U.K.: Bloodaxe Books.
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