Making Sustainable Life Choices

sustainable lifeSustainability is officially a “buzz word,” but a very important one. The term sustainability as it is presently used originated with the “go-green” movement, which encouraged people to alter their lifestyles in order to help the planet’s health. Sustainability was used largely to describe the harvesting of energy sources of all varieties in a way that would renew the energy source at the same rate it depleted it. The use of this term broadened exponentially, however, and came to refer to any practice in life that gives resources back in equal measures as it takes them. In that sense, we can examine the fundamentals of life through the lens of sustainability to discover what the most essential things to human existence are.

  • Spirituality. Many people confuse spirituality and religion. The term spirituality essentially refers to where we draw the meaning of our lives from. This may be from a higher power, from a range of energies or from humanity itself, but it is considered by mental health experts to be one of the essentials for wholeness within a person.
  • Relationships. As social beings, relationships are an obvious necessity. Some people need an abundance of relationships while others only need a few, but companionship in some form or another is considered a necessary part of good mental health.
  • Health. Medical and mental health are key components of a satisfying existence. They are obvious methods of achieving a high quality of life. Good mental health dictates your moods and decision making, and good medical health gives a person access to a great deal more of what life has to offer. Teaching yourself how to maintain healthy sobriety and balance is very important to your well-being.
  • Purpose. Purpose can be thought of as a meaningful calling or simply as the thing that keeps a person occupied. Either way, having the drive to accomplish necessary tasks is a crucial part of being a balanced human being.

These four elements have been qualified by mental and behavioral health experts to be the most important elements of human existence. One could say that the most sustainable way of living is by incorporating these things in equal parts into your life. They may seem ambiguous in list form, but when each area is broken down and identified with, these four elements make for the most sustainable model of an individual’s life.

Embracing Spirituality

embrace spirituality

Why would spirituality be considered a sustainable life practice? After all, it is not something you can see, hear, taste or touch. The reason spirituality is a necessary component of a sustainable lifestyle is best explained by the findings of psychologists and mental health experts: spirituality is necessary to mental health. Spirituality is one of the four major ingredients to mental health, balance, sustainability and stability, as well as the answer to the question of morality.

Many people hear this and confuse spirituality with religion. Spirituality and religion are two entirely different things. Spirituality is a feeling of reverence while religion is an organized institution. In order for a person to be spiritual, they would have to believe in some type of metaphysical life force that interacts with our physical existence, and attribute their personal morality to that life force. Most spiritual people tend to reason that this metaphysical life force takes the form of entities: God, the devil, angels, demons, spirits, fairies, etc. Others believe the life force is a type of energy that is not organized into a conscious entity but still interacts with people, such as karma or a curse.  It is arguable that merely holding to a moral system or believing that purpose exists in the universe is a form of spirituality.

The reason spirituality if so important to mental health is because it closely dialogues with and informs the other key components of a balanced, sustainable life. Feeling a sense of purpose in life is strongly tied to the belief that life has meaning, and it is spirituality that informs a person’s life meaning. We often choose relationships with people who are of a similar spirituality as ourselves, and many people who are passionate about their health describe being healthy as good for the soul as well as good for the body. The stronger the life of the spirit, the stronger the connection between the elements of a sustainable lifestyle.

Forming Relationships

form relationshipsSome people consider relationships optional, but studies into good mental health suggest otherwise. Humanity has always been a social species, and this is for good reason. Keeping healthy relationships contributes toward a balanced, sustainable lifestyle in the sense that good relationships enhance our emotional lives as well as make our lives more functional.

Having relationships for personal reasons has everything to do with happiness. Because humanity evolved to be a very social species, it is innate within us to crave the companionship of others. This does not mean that extroversion is healthy and introversion is not. There is a huge difference between introversion and anti-social tendencies. Introversion is healthy in that it still craves certain types of relationships. Anti-social behavior is a mental disorder in which avoidance of other people becomes an obsession. It is normal and healthy to desire community and a social system – things that people tend to find through work, school, church or any number of shared activities.

Human relationships are not simply a feel-good measure, however. Our social evolution was largely functional as well as emotional. Humanity sprung from tribes and small groups of people with numbers no bigger than the average workplace in the modern world. This taught us to work, cooperate, live and thrive in a social manner, which is carried on to today. We have systems in place such as neighborhood watch, community functions and social services. Our friends and family check up on us to make sure we are safe and healthy. Our society is also set up in a way that rewards those with better relationship skills. Landing a good job often depends on who you know, social networking is a large key to worldly success and having many friendships tends to get you advantages in life. The ability to make and keep relationships is an essential part of every person’s sustainable lifestyle.

Living in Good Health

live healthyLiving in good health may seem like the most obvious sustainable lifestyle choice, and arguably, it is. Making an effort to take proper care of your body, based on current medical advice and common sense, can only improve your quality of life, not detract from it. Similarly, living in a way that aids the health of the planet can only serve to improve the collective experience of life on the planet. The more naturally one can live, the more sustainable.
Everyone is responsible for monitoring their own personal health, and the more diligently a person does this, the more sustainable their lifestyle is. A person in good health is more capable than a person in bad health. They are better able to function in the broad scheme of things. They are more active, energetic, productive and are less of a strain on social health services. But most importantly, they have a higher quality of life. Some good health practices are common sense: eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and get a fair amount of sunshine. Some good health practices come from medical opinions, and apply to your own personal genetics and health profile. Both are important to sustaining good health. If a substance abuse problem is what stands between you and good health, your health problems are mental as well as physical and warrant the help of an substance abuse rehab.
Good health extends beyond your own person to the health of the environment around you. Only you are responsible for your personal health, but everyone is responsible for the health of the planet. This concept is where the popular usage of the word “sustainability” derives from. When you live in a way that is sustainable to the planet, you are living responsibly. Sustaining the planet’s health usually involves things such as eating natural, local food, growing your own food, recycling, composting, retrofitting your home to make it less energy using, commuting without a motorized vehicle and buying products that create less waste and are biodegradable. This is commonly referred to as “reducing your carbon footprint.”

Living with Purpose


live with purposeHaving purpose in life can be called sustainable because it is the thing that pushes us forward to higher ground. Whether it is an individualistic or collective effort, purpose is responsible for human progress. It is true that purpose can be mislead, however, purpose in the most noble sense of the word is something that challenges us to fight a good fight. Having purpose is a sustainable life practice as it enhances our quality of life by motivating us, making us productive and by making us feel alive.

When we live with purpose, we are more motivated than when we live without purpose. We are brought closer to our personal ideals. Having a calling or a drive is the most natural state of existence for humanity, and the way it pushes us toward accomplishment is very important to our well being. When we forego  purpose, it is possible for negative emotions to move in in its place. This makes it an essential part of our existence.

Being motivated makes us more productive and enables us to do more good work. One attribute of a highly effective person is their level of productivity. Their energy and focus surpass others and they are able to achieve more by the sheer force of their personality. Productivity is a large part of sustainability as work to care for ourselves and our planet is never ending. Those who are productive lead the way in developing new systems and ideas that better our general quality of life.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, purpose inspires us and makes us feel alive. Purpose is essential to happiness. In most global cultures, there is discussion of the moment a person finds their calling, or their destiny. This is the moment a person discovers their purpose, and it is universally agreed upon that pursuing this purpose is necessary to our individual happiness and our collective happiness.