There is being physically green and then there is being psychologically green.
Green is a term long associated with eco-friendly products and sustainable living. Green can also be applied to a psychological approach to life that helps us reconnect with important human instincts to increase harmony and happiness in our lives, and even expand our creativity.
In nature, animals use their instincts to survive, care for their young, adapt to circumstances and to continue their species. While humans have the ability to reason, we also have important instincts that have evolved over time. By getting in touch with our true human nature, we can live in a green mental state that fosters growth and sustainability—so that we can thrive, not just survive.
Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, a leading psychologist and author of The Genius Instinct: Reclaim Mother Nature’s Tools for Enhancing Your Health, Happiness, Family, and Work (FT Press, 2009) says:
Today, being psychologically green means tuning into your instincts, getting back to basics, and back to our human nature. Whereas physical green is analogous to protecting our planet, psychological green is about protecting and honoring our human nature.
Dr. Weisinger continues, “Take a look at the plights we have now and you will see for that they are a result of going against our human nature, from being ‘instinctually disconnected.’ No wonder we are often so unhappy and unfulfilled. No wonder we sometimes get into the wrong relationships, take the wrong jobs, and make the wrong choices.
“At the same time, take a look at the individuals, families, organizations, and countries that are thriving, and you will conclude that they are doing nothing more than staying in synch with their human nature. That is why they are growing. It is our instinctual tools that allow us to thrive and to solve the everyday problems that we encounter. Indeed, today psychological green is true to the color of nature—green for growth.”
What can we do to become psychologically green? How do we get back in touch with our human nature?
The answer lies in using the genius of your instincts. Here are six tips to get you started:
1. Listen to your emotions. They are the voice of your instincts. Too many times, we rely on the opinions and recommendations of others to make our choice. Friends tell you, “He is perfect for you.” Parents and counselors tell the high school graduate, “this is the school for you.” We follow the advice, despite the nagging feeling that tells us something isn’t right. Listening to your emotions and feelings is the beginning for getting connected to your instinctual tunes.
2. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. You are hardwired to care-solicit: ask others for help. It is mother nature’s instinctual tool that helps you protect your vulnerabilities. Yet, most people deny their vulnerabilities, and, as a result, become disconnected from their care-soliciting instinct. Why does this happen? One reason is that feeling vulnerable is uncomfortable (as it should be since it communicates we are at risk.) Another reason is the conventional pop psychology message that successful individuals solve their own problems, the emotionally healthy too. Thus, we seldom ask for help when we really need it, whether it is asking our partner for help around the house or in managing finances. Being comfortable with feeling vulnerable will allow you to take advantage of your care-soliciting instincts.
3. Give to others. Can anyone deny the world would be better place if we all became more in touch of our care-giving instincts, an evolutionary function for social survival. Presidents have written books on the importance of care-giving, but mother nature said it first. Both males and females are hardwired to be maternal and paternal—it is in our genes. Early parents who were good care-givers increased the survival chances of their offspring. There are all sorts of reasons that inhibit our care-giving instincts, ranging from “it’s an effort,” to withholding love because of anger. But animals seldom withhold care the way humans do. To get to your care-giving nature at work, focus on giving to others. At home, prioritize your children. With your partner, tune in to their physical and mental health. Also, do things for your community. All these activities will be a catalyst to get your care-giving instincts going.
4. Look your personal best. Silverback gorillas spend hours polishing their coats and picking fleas off themselves and each other. The more attractive they are to each other, the greater the chance of mating and perpetuation of their species. You are hardwired to beautify—to make yourself attractive for the purpose of making yourself desirable to others. If you are not, say goodbye to your line of genes. Many people are surprised they didn’t get the job due to their attire, and business managers can be clueless about how their abrasive demeanor makes them unattractive to those around them. So take a lesson from the silverbacks and look your personal best. Then, develop your sense of humor, become a better listener, and be supportive to others, all actions of attractive instincts that will make you more desirable to others.
5. Commit to cooperate. We are all hardwired naturally to cooperate—not compete. Get in touch with your cooperative nature. It brings out the best in you and others. Start by making the commitment to cooperate, especially when others aren’t. Be like lions, who don’t punish or exclude the “laggards” who don’t do their share, but rather continue their own efforts to make the pride stronger. Tit for tat is a losing strategy, and one that is hard to break; it ruins relationships. Teach your kids that they can’t be lucky every day, but they can be nice every day. The fact is, nice guys do finish first. Project managers can create a team identity and see cooperation increase. When partners honor their couple identity, it reinforces for each of them the desire to nourish the relationship. Treat other people fairly, and watch the cooperation and relationship improve.
6. Become a Curious George/Georgette. You are hardwired to investigate and explore your environment. It increases the likelihood of encountering objects—a person, a book, or food—that can enhance your existence. That is the evolutionary function of your curiosity instinct, which can accelerate learning. Unfortunately, parents stifle the curiosity of their children by ignoring or failing to encourage their interests, usually because it does not concur with the parents’ interest. Countless couples stay stuck in their comfort zone by choosing their favorite restaurant every time out, rather than taking a chance on a new spot. Our schools have lost their edge by failing to ignite the curiosity of students, especially in science and math. Ask yourself-when was the last time you developed a new interest. If not, you’re probably a bore. Get back to your curious nature if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Develop new interests and activities. Increase your energy level, a prerequisite for curios actions like going for a walk in a new area of town. Mentally stimulate your curiosity by asking yourself questions you don’t know until you are motivated to find out. Go to a new restaurant and order a novel dish, all for the sake of jump-starting your dormant curiosity instinct.
Richard Kujawski is the Managing Editor of Living Green Magazine which informs and educates readers on a range of environmental and lifestyle issues. They balance news stories with articles that highlight nonprofit causes and provide sustainable solutions for individuals, families, businesses, and communities. Their readers come in all shades of green, and want to create a healthy environment for themselves and others. Some people describe Living Green Magazine as the NPR and PBS of green websites.
Editor: Seychelles Pitton