Sustainable happiness in an ecovillage: exploring the impacts of sustainable living on individual happiness
Master of Education
Environmental and sustainability education
Connecting psychological and ecological well-being
Sustainability and sustainable living
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While there has been substantial growth in scholarly attention to negative emotional responses to environmental issues such as climate change, limited research has been conducted on the converse, such as how environmentally sustainable lifestyles might influence and impact individual happiness. Happiness is commonly considered a subjective and situational emotion; however, research has shown that individuals who practice a number of mindful exercises are capable of improving and increasing their overall sense of well-being. Drawing on the emergent field of “sustainable happiness,” this ethnographic case study examined the lived experiences of individuals who lead environmentally sustainable lifestyles, specifically focusing on their understandings and perceptions of happiness. Twelve interviews were conducted with an environmentally focused intentional community in British Columbia, Canada. Data analysis revealed that although happiness exercises were not explicitly practiced, participants nonetheless engaged in authentic daily activities that enabled them to explore how gratitude, the pursuit of money, the influence of media and news, and sense of community impacted their health and happiness. Further, the longer participants had lived in this intentional community and increased their knowledge of sustainable living, the more able they were to recognize the negative impacts current mainstream lifestyles had on their health and happiness. Given these findings and increased awareness of the importance of attending to mental health in formal educational settings, it is recommended that curricula grounded in sustainable happiness research be developed to offer students opportunities to explicitly learn about well-being and the potential impacts different practices and lifestyles have on their happiness.
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