What is the link between sustainability and mindfulness?

“Sustainability is often studied from a large-scale, political or institutional perspective. I was interested in looking at sustainability from the other end, how individual inner transition could impact on global sustainability”, says Professor Christine Wamsler from the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies.

Professor Christine Wamsler from the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies.

This interest led her to conduct a study on sustainability and mindfulness – since mindfulness is generally linked to individual transition and a changed sense of self-awareness in relation to the world and your place in it.

“I wanted to explore whether there are any linkages between sustainability and mindfulness, and how this is reflected in current sustainability research, practice and teaching.”

Her study found that mindfulness so far has been vastly neglected in sustainability research and science. Yet, based on the reported positive effects of practicing mindfulness,  the study shows that there is scientific support for mindfulness having a positive impact on sustainability at all levels. This relates to the influence of mindfulness on subjective well-being, core values related to non-materialisms, consumption and sustainable behaviour, people’s connection to nature, social activism, as well as deliberate, adaptive responses to climate change.

Christine Wamsler has also conducted an experimental learning lab with Master’s students in sustainability science to explore mindful teaching practices and the potential to integrate them in the curriculum. She found that a majority of the students were positive to including mindfulness in sustainability learning and teaching.

“I hope that my recent study will open up for new inquiries and pathways towards sustainability.”

She says that future sustainability research should provide broader approaches. Until now, mostly reductionist research and materialism has been taken as the intellectual and social model.  For Christine Wamsler, research that acknowledges individual inner transition, spirituality, and mindfulness in particular, is crucial to truly advance sustainability. It involves a fundamental shift in the way we think about, and ultimately respond to, local and global economic, social and ecological crises.

“My research on mindfulness opens up for new discourses on the role of the individual and individual inner transition in sustainability. At the same time it creates discussions on how we conduct research in sustainability…how we construct knowledge, highlighting the importance of including multiple perspectives and research entry points.”

Text: Noomi Egan


Read Christine Wamsler’s study

Mindfulness in Sustainability Science, Practice and Teaching.

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