Most climate leaders we’ve spoken to say that joy and rejuvenation — whether found while hiking, cooking with friends, or cuddling with a pet — is an essential counterbalance to the stress and anxiety that comes with fighting climate change. Even for those who aren’t activists, eco-dread is a backdrop of daily life that can take a toll on one’s spirit. If we want to stay in this for the long haul, we need an antidote to despair.
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In addition to sustaining our physical and mental well-being, we are often able to think more positively when we do things that we love or find pleasing. For example, when we step outside on a sunny day and look at beautiful flowers, we might experience a surge of dopamine in the brain. Neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan says this makes us feel motivated, inspiring an attitude of, “I want to do things!”
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[Berridge] points out that dopamine also has a presence in our relationships and could potentially provide motivation for sticking with the climate fight. “Looking at your loved ones, your partner, or children … can trigger dopamine,” he says. And he believes that the intrinsic desire to protect those people, to imagine a future where your grandchildren and their grandchildren can thrive, could create a dopamine surge like anything else that brings us joy.