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Climate Activist Survival Tips

Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Ai Weiwei, Iron Tree, 2013 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I don’t know about you, but doing climate change gets overwhelming at times. For one there is the deluge of information, and much of it is bad news. Then there are all the people who either don’t care about our climate crisis or are outright hostile to any discussion about climate action. Then there are the folks who are convinced climate change is serious, so much so that they have lost hope and have become hope deniers.

If I am not careful, I can get weighed down under it all. So I have developed some strategies to help lessen the load and emotionally care for myself.

One of the most important steps I take to keep my head above the waters is to have community–friends and colleagues who are also engaged in climate action. Just having another person who understands, who cares, who is involved in some aspect of the work comforts and supports me. I regularly check in with members of the Climate Stew Crew–Prescott Allen Hazleton, Leah Schade, Andrea McClaren and others. I am also involved in a local Quaker meeting where I have fellow laborers in the climate work.

In addition, this year I want to work on regular practices to help keep my thoughts positive and stave off the heaviness.

I found a great article that provides some simple tips that I can already say make a big difference.

I think there is real truth in the saying: You are what you think.

Happy Thoughts: Here Are the Things Proven To Make You Happier. This article lists techniques that help people who are clinically depressed, and as a climate activist, I can attest to climate-induced depression.

Some highlights:

  • Hiking Arizona with my dear friend, Abby.

    Hiking in Arizona with my dear friend, Abby.

    Spend as much time as possible with people you like. The happiest people are social with strong relationships. Not spending more time with people we love is something we regret the most. Being able to spend more time with friends provides an increase in happiness worth up to an additional $133,000 a year. Being compassionate makes us happier (causal, not correlative.) Share the best events of your day with loved ones and ask them to do the same. And compliment them — we love compliments more than money or sex.

  • Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude I can’t emphasize this one enough. Showing gratitude for the good things you have is the most powerful happiness boosting activity there is. It will make you happier. It will improve your relationships. It can make you a better person. It can make life better for everyone around you. Bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists. Why? They feel grateful to get a medal at all. Every night before you go to bed write three good things that happened to you that day. Jotting those down is pretty much all it takes to get a boost in well-being over time.

There’s a second lesson here: the reverse is also true. Keeping track of the bad things will make you miserable. A convenient memory is a powerful thing. Do not train your brain to see the negative, teach it to see the positive.

  • Fundamentals are fundamental Cranky? Before you blame the world, eat something. Take a nap — it can purge negative emotions and increase happy thoughts. Sleep is vital because your mood in the morning affects your mood all day.  Get your sleep. You cannot get away with cheating yourself on sleep and being tired makes it harder to be happy.

Read the whole article for yourself: Happy Thoughts: Here Are the Things Proven To Make You Happier.

What are some strategies you use to stay positive and healthy?


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

This post has 4 Comments

  1. Leah Schade on January 24, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I affirm everything in the article and also add:
    1. Spend time in the natural world. It does wonders in helping keep things in perspective.
    2. Walk. The process of putting one foot in front of the other not only creates the physical sensation of moving forward, but an emotional one as well.
    3. Breathe intentionally. Slow deep breaths cleanse the mind, body and spirit!

    • Peterson Toscano on January 24, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Super. Thanks. I am finding too that when I walk I try to find actual earth to walk upon and not just concrete. Here in my town that actually takes some work.

      Getting in nature often refreshes me. Art museums too. And hanging out with you!!

    • Marin Toscano on January 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      I affirm everything the article discusses and double affirm Leah’s additions! Nature, Breathing, Walking!!! What great ingredients for a happy life! I can attest to the impact of these simple acts on my own happiness. Since my wife and I have been travelling in South America I can almost physically feel my cells decompressing, with all the walking and nature that has become a part of our daily lives. My breath is feeling more relaxed and deep. Now the trick will be to keep all this up when not on vacation!

      One thing that helps keep me happy: Reminding myself I am part of a greater purpose. Whatever it is that makes you feel like you are collaborating and communicating in a way that will leave positive ripples in the world, do that! The more you dedicate yourself to that purpose, the happier you will be!

      • Peterson Toscano on January 25, 2016 at 9:51 am

        Marin, you have added to the mix an important ingredient–not simply getting in nature, but also travel. Of course no everyone can go to such a far and exotic location, but I find that even locally when I go to a nearby town, explore a park or nature preserve and the local scene, this makes me happy. It grounds me and helps me get perspective. I also feel more connected to a larger world around me and not just the jumbled up world in my head.

        I am so glad you mentioned being part of a greater purpose. I guess that does not motivate and encourage everyone, but I know that the work I do, even when it is hard or discouraging, becomes lighter when I understand that bit by bit I am contributing to a greater good. Those small ripples add up over time. I need to remind myself of that greater purpose and also it is important that we remind each other too.

        Thanks for commenting. I am ready to share any photos you like on the blog. I am sure people will be excited to see what you are seeing these days there in Peru.