June 25, 2022

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Extreme weather events, such as droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and floods, have a clear impact on the mental well-being of the people who experience them. However, the persistent anxiety about the future of life on our planet can also take its toll. In this Special Feature, we explore not only the direct effects of climate change on mental health but also the importance of building resilience and turning “eco-anxiety” into action.

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How should we prepare mentally for the incoming effects of climate change and global warming? fotojog/Getty Images

Imagine if astronomers discovered that a planet-destroying meteor is on a collision course with the Earth. Surely the world’s leaders would do everything in their power to deflect it and save the planet from catastrophe?

But suppose they didn’t? What if they dismissed the astronomers’ warnings and carried on with business as usual until it was too late?

This is the premise of Don’t Look Up, a satirical movie that has resonated powerfully with environmental campaigners who are frustrated at the failure of politicians and the media to treat climate change and loss of biodiversity as planetary emergencies.

Anxiety is a rational, adaptive response to a perceived threat if it provokes action to keep us safe from harm. But chronic anxiety in the face of threats over which we appear to have little control can lead to feelings of helplessness and even clinical depression.

Young people may be particularly vulnerable to such feelings when they witness a lack of urgency by the world’s political leaders to address environmental dangers such as climate change, habitat loss, and species extinction.

In a recent survey of 10,000 individuals aged 16–25 years in 10 countries, over 45% said their feelings about climate change had a negative impact on their daily lives and functioning.

Ratings of anxiety and distress were significantly associated with the impression that the government response to the climate emergency has been inadequate.

One of the study’s authors, Caroline Hickman, Ph.D., from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, is a psychotherapist specializing in eco-anxiety in children and young people.

“I’ve been listening for 10 years to children and young people telling me that they feel doomed, they feel abandoned, they feel betrayed,” she told a recent webinar about eco-anxiety organized by Public Policy Projects.

She recalled an occasion when a 10-year-old boy got very angry trying to make her understand what it is like as a child growing up in today’s world: “[Y]ou grew up thinking that polar bears would be there forever, he said, I’m growing up knowing they will go extinct.”

The increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as wildfires and floods, due to climate change is already impacting human health directly.

While scientists have accumulated a wealth of evidence about the effects of climate change on physical health, there has been much less research into how it can affect mental health.

But a recent review of 120 studies published over the past 20

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3 min read

Even if you’re not shuttling kids back to school or in a climate where autumn brings changing leaves and dropping temperatures, there tends to be a shift in our schedules and moods that comes with the start of fall, says Minneapolis-based Lindsay Ogden, a National Academy of Sports Medicine–certified personal trainer and the digital manager for content and coaching at for Life Time, a national fitness company that runs gyms and corporate wellness programs.

Fewer hours of daylight might find you spending less time outdoors, especially in the evenings or early morning hours. You might find yourself less motivated to stick with an outdoor workout, particularly if you had been exercising at one of these times, Ogden says. “Maybe it’s now dark when you get up.”

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Some people find themselves more energized to work out at new times throughout the day, she says. Or you might find yourself craving new ways to work out altogether. That “fresh start” feeling that comes with trying new activities can be really motivating, says Ogden.

The novelty can make it playful and fun — and something you look forward to rather than something you feel like you have to slog through.

Here are a few ideas of activities to try that can help you fit in lots of movement and embrace the change of season:

1. Apple Picking

Fall offers lots of outdoor activities to help you get a few extra steps in, from apple picking to navigating a corn maze to hiking or cycling.

Activities like these can up overall activity throughout the day and offer short bursts of intensity, says Ogden. For example, apple picking requires overhead stretching, as well as twists and forward bends (all good for maintaining mobility). A corn maze might inspire you to sprint through in a race with your friends and family.

RELATED: Mobility Exercises to Boost Your Health and Fitness

Getting different types of motion than you’d find in the gym can improve fitness overall, Ogden explains, since you’re using multiple muscle groups. Plus, she adds that being outdoors can give you an additional mental health boost.

“Wherever you are, think about ways to enjoy the season and truly embrace it,” Ogden suggests. Enjoying movement will make it feel less like work.

2. Fun Runs

Fall is definitely “fun run” season, says Ogden. For instance, many cities have a turkey trot run either on Thanksgiving or the weekend after. Other fun runs have themes — like a color run, where you jog through clouds of nontoxic colored powders, or a leaf run, where you run through a tree-lined course resplendent in autumn colors — and encourage participants to dress up in costumes or festive attire, Ogden says. Many of these races have a less intimidating 5K or other shorter distance option, or allow you to walk the route. Music, post-event celebrations, and the company of others offer a party-like

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