The Connection Between Gratitude and Sustainability

The Connection Between Gratitude and Sustainability
Photo by Julie Franklin Photography

What motivates you to act? Gratitude, or fear?

Those who are motivated by gratitude actively work at it. They realize that fear is good motivation for short term change, but is not sustainable in the long term. Over time, behavior change motivated by fear only leads to anxiety and overwhelm.

Unfortunately, many choose to motivate using fear. You’ll notice very scary (yet true) facts about the climate crisis circulating social media and the news on any given day. Those people are choosing to use fear to motivate others into action. The problem with this is that fear naturally leads us to fight, flight or freeze. As humans, we act on instinct. That is why fear is such a powerful motivator! Fear will either lead us to action or paralyze us into inaction… but we don’t get to choose how we react.

This is why many believe gratitude to be a more sustainable motivator for change. Research suggests that feeling grateful compels us to reflect on our relationships, and leads us to feel more connected to others — helping us sustain efforts for self improvement.

Remember, we are all connected to nature, and each other. Thus, expressing gratitude for the earth will make us feel closer and more connected to her, naturally prompting us to want to take better care of her — and ourselves — to show her the gifts she gives us are not wasted! Regularly expressing gratitude is a proven way to develop intrinsic motivation, which can be significant and powerful; a "continuous source of motivation," which makes it invaluable.

Sure, it can be easy to read the latest catastrophic headline and think, I need to do something about this before the world comes to an end! So you take your reusable bags to the grocery store, keep your Hydroflask on hand at all times and take the bus to work. But then one day, you forget your bags at home. Then you leave your Hydroflask in the dishwasher. And you decide to skip the bus for the day in favor of a quick car ride to work. After a while, you decide being sustainable is just too much work.

It’s a lot harder to forget or abandon your everyday sustainable swaps when you’re motivated by your gratitude for the earth. Once you step outside that door, you’ll see those beautiful blue skies and hear the rustling of leaves, and remember instantly why you’re going the extra mile to change your habits and preserve those gifts.

How can you start a gratitude practice to help you build motivation from within?​

  • Start small. First, leave doubt aside and believe in the potential of gratitude. Belief takes you a considerable way forward, so keep your mind open and skepticism low. This may be difficult if you’re feeling worried or anxious (looking at you, eco-anxiety) to the point where you don’t feel like your usual self. That’s why it’s important to start small! List two things you’re grateful for in nature every day, and describe how it made you feel.
  • Keep the practice up for at least two weeks. Revisit how your “nature gratitude” lists made you feel at the end of the two weeks. Try the gratitude practice for at least two to three days each week.
  • Write it down. You’ll recall how your lists made you feel better if you write them down. A mobile app or journal can help you record what you’re grateful for, or you can use an old notebook you might have laying around!

Intrinsic motivation is only one of the possible benefits of a gratitude practice. Gratitude in general has the ability to take our thoughts, feelings, and willpower to a higher level. If you invest in gratitude, it’s perhaps one of the safest bets to improving your life — and staying motivated!

If you’re interested in learning more about the connection between mind, body and earth, visit the Earth Momma website at and connect with Adriana Bachmann on Instagram @earthmommtrainee to follow her sustainability journey and learn some tips on how to live more eco-friendly!

By Adriana Bachmann, as seen on the Asraya Wellness Co blog.