Solastalgia--It's Real!

by Lee Ann Hopkins May 02, 2019

Photo by Matthew Henry on Burst

Have you heard of this word, solastalgia?  It’s popping up frequently these days.  If you’re like me you might have overlooked it or just skimmed right by it.  As soon as I give you the definition, you’ll understand why you might be hearing it more and more in the news and in print…maybe even at your doctor’s office.

“Solastalgia” was coined by philosopher and researcher, Professor Glenn Albrecht, to describe the feeling of the loss of things that you find valuable in your home environment.  “It’s the type of homesickness or melancholia that you feel when you’re at home and your home environment is changing around you in ways that you feel are profoundly negative.”  Climate change articles are rife with this neologism.

This concern makes sense as large swaths of people are imperiled by disastrous changes in their environments—dying ecosystems, floods, super fires, extreme weather events and unstable climate patterns.  In essence, we are experiencing a communal and global depression where life feels out-of-control and hopeless.

While therapists can assist with mental health concerns like depression, only we as individuals and communities can lift ourselves out of this dark solastalgia that we are experiencing.

Let me suggest a few ideas to help you stave off solastalgia.

Action is the key to better mental health, especially as the clock is ticking for our precious planet.  We do need to act, but how do we do so without further angst is the question, right?

  1. Take small, consistent steps. Instead of focusing on the immensity of the problem, look at one item that can be tackled. For example, carry and use your re-usable grocery bags for every purchase you make, commit to taking your lunch to work, ask your local grocery stores and businesses to institute small changes in the way they use napkins/paper towels (less is more) or go to your school board and local government to pitch waste-reduction strategies. All of these organizations have buyers.  Make sure that they are purchasing less plastic or maybe LESS stuff in general.  Or, maybe they can stop offering “single” use plastic bags or cutlery.  As a personal example, I am committed to letter-writing.  I just sent a letter to the corporate offices at Wegmans and asked that they offer several aisles of bulk goods and plastic-free where customers can use refillable containers. I’ll let you know what they say in response. 
  1. Include family and friends in fun, environmental actions. Plant trees.  Pick up litter.  Sow a garden at the senior center, church, synagogue or school.  Take a hike and learn about the ecosystem where you live. 
  1. Amplify the good works of others! If you are on social media, share positive messages of change. 
  1. Be a role model, not a shrew or judgmental you-know-what. Compassion for your fellow creatures will deliver the message better that side-eye and disdain. Quiet and steady actions are powerful, especially if they are offered with love. 
  1. Purchase your eco-friendly products from small business owners who share your concern for the planet. (Do Good Soaps and Suds is a great place to start--wink, wink!)

Lee Ann Hopkins
Lee Ann Hopkins


Chief soapologist and lover of all-things-Do-Good, especially those souls who cherish the earth and do their best to protect it.

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