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Cultivate personal sustainability this spring

Originally posted in PSU Student Health 101

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
- Hans Hoffman

On April 22, we will celebrate Earth Day! When you consider the health of the earth, do you think about how your personal well-being supports sustainability? Each day, we breathe air, drink water, and eat food that literally is the earth. From our bodies, these life elements then continue cycling through the earth’s living systems. Each of us also participates in social, cultural and economic systems. By creating personal balance and health, we are supporting sustainability. 

How much is your health worth? Societal expectations can send messages that success means being “better” than others, consuming more and more, and living a fast-paced lifestyle. The Life Balance Wheel offers a balanced approach to creating personal sustainability.  

What does the Life Balance Wheel look like?

  • Health – Food, fitness, sleep, relaxation, emotional health, self-care
  • Family and Community – Relationships, support networks, participation, intimacy, communication, neighborhood 
  • Environment – Home, pets, transportation, time in nature
  • Career – Work hours, direction, working conditions, performance
  • Finances – Budgeting, saving, income, investment, giving
  • Personal Growth – Education, reading, awareness, spirituality
  • Fun and Recreation – Free time, reflection, creativity, laughter

What areas are balanced in your life, and what areas might benefit from investment? Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities for improving health, start with one or two significant changes that are achievable. Health is as much a state of being as a destination. 

Some ideas for personal sustainability

  • Find exercise you enjoy. Work toward being and feeling healthy rather than fitting a certain body type. 
  • Avoid over-processed foods and add more fresh foods into your diet. Food is the fuel for our body. Healthy eating can improve energy levels, mood, and self-confidence.
  • Count your blessings. Practice thinking about what you are thankful for. 
  • Find a few minutes to be quiet each day. Even five minutes of reflection can make a big difference.
  • Consider practicing a technology Sabbath. One night a week without watching two hours of television can free up eight hours a month. Or choose one day a week or month to turn off phones, TVs, and computers.
  • Practice a sustainable lifestyle. Think about the implications of your actions on people and the planet, from packaging to purchasing. Consider reducing, re-using, re-purposing, and recycling!
  • Spend time outside with fresh air, water, and soil. Observe the seasons, even in your city or neighborhood. 

Some questions to ask about your own personal sustainability

  • How might your life be unnecessarily complicated? What is one complication you can remove from your life?
  • Sometimes we are genuinely busy, but sometimes we are only busy because of distraction. What might we be distracting ourselves from? 
  • Time is a resource. Where is time and energy being sucked out of your life?

*Questions taken from Voluntary Simplicity discussion course text



Heather Spalding oversees PSU's  Sustainability Leadership Center, a department that bridges student life and sustainability at PSU.