Life on Earth is complex right now! Whether you are alert to refugee crises, signs of environmental damage and climate change, severe storms, health effects from air and water pollution, or social and political turmoil, you could make a list of a lot of things that worry you or even lead you to feel despair.
But are the anxiety and eco-anxiety that have become normal our best response to the crises we face? Neuroscience and the history of activism suggest an alternative response that’s more beneficial for us as individuals, and far more effective for healing our world. We’re learning that:
- Anxiety creates a freeze response in our brains that shuts down the optimism and innovation needed to solve crises.
- People who bemoan social problems or environmental problems often make few or no contributions to solutions.
- Neuroscientist Rick Hanson describes the human brain’s state of anxiety, stress, and pessimism as the activity of our reactive (and more primitive) ‘red brain.’ Conversely, our ‘green brain’ state is our responsive (and more evolved) mode of confidently meeting challenges and enjoying life’s pleasures without getting stuck in the stress response.
- We can see the effects of red brain and green brain play out in human history and the work of current activists such as Wangari Maathai and Boyan Slat.
- It may be fashionable to moan and complain in ‘red brain’ and talk about our dystopian future, but I challenge you to realize that actually we are designed to respond creatively to our world, not sit frozen in despair.
- If you want to suffer less and help a lot more, learn to curate your ‘green brain.’ Listen in to learn how.
- Living as much as possible in green brain allows you to be someone who assists with regeneration for people and planet, rather than someone who holds us back.