It’s been known for quite some time that polluted air leads to heart and lung problems, and now we are becoming aware that air pollution also has a negative effect on our brains. There is growing evidence that toxic chemicals in our air are linked to disorders such as autism, ADHD, intellectual disability and learning disorders.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about air pollution all of a sudden. Well, I’ve spent the last month in an area with very poor air. And with each day, the smell of garbage, urine and chemicals, seemed to affect my mood more and more strongly. You would think that I would start to acclimate to it after a while but, in those four weeks, it was the opposite - it increasingly irritated me and my mindset. I became quicker to anger, quicker to negative thoughts. That’s when I started thinking about if the air pollution, alongside other personal stressors, is contributing to my change in mood. If it affects our physical health, it stands to reason then, that it also affects our mental health.
Research has been conducted exploring the relationship between poor air and mental health. Here is some of the outcomes:
“The risk of psychological distress increased alongside the amount of fine particulate matter in the air.”
“Air pollution...has been associated with behavior changes – spending less time outside, for instance, or leading a more sedentary lifestyle – that can be related to psychological distress or social isolation.”
It is important to be aware of how our mental health is impacted by pollution. This information is good to know, but before we let this overwhelm us, let’s re-focus our attention on the positive actions we can all do today.
Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
While we may often talk about outdoor quality of air, indoor air is just as important. So what gives off air pollution in the home? I’ve listed some of the things below:
Cooking - your toaster, stove, oven, dishwasher, etc.
Cleaning - your cleaning sprays & solutions, mops, vacuums, etc.
Living - using your hairspray, exhaling, scented body lotions, deodorants, candles
Take a moment to evaluate how you can lessen the effects of these emissions in your home. Below are some ideas that I came up with:
If you can afford it, consider getting an air purifier for your home. Placing it in the room that you spend most of your time.
And/or get purifying plants for your apartment.
Try to replace harsh chemical cleaners for natural DIY options like these ones.
Buy as many natural products (candles, shampoos, lotions, etc.) as possible.
Be conscience of your consumerism. As you know, factories contribute a lot of air pollution. If the demand for plastic items decrease, production decreases, and hence the pollution decreases.
Volunteer with Local Clean Ups
There’s nothing like giving back to your community. This activity is a double win - not only would you be creating better air for your own health but you will get a chance to interact with other people, get out of the house, and feel purposeful.
Clean up on Belle Isle.
Vote for Those Who Protect Our Environment
Voting is a great way to protect our environment. Your vote counts and it’s something that I consider when I start filling out my ballot. The reason America has so many incredible National Parks and green spaces that help create clean air for us is because those before us have acted to protect them. We need to do the same for ourselves and future generations.
Air pollution is not usually a topic I would write about but having my recent personal experience really made me wonder how the unseen particles that are all around us impact my mental health. Now that I see there is a connection between my mental health and air quality, I am even more determined to take care of the environment. Remember, something is better than nothing. You don’t have to be zero waste to make a positive impact on our air quality. Every bit you do to help counts.
I hope this blog post gives you a chance to reflect and take positive action to create an environment that is optimal for your mental health.
Till next time.
Wishing you joy, safety and ease.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.