In this blog, Rachel Marsh from Global Action Plan tells us how she’s ditched the Christmas stress of buy, buy, buy in favour of a more mindful approach to the holiday season, preserving not only sanity but also the planet!

Every Christmas I find myself almost on auto-pilot, drawing up the same lists, worrying if I should put just that bit more on the food order in case I run out on the day, afraid I might not look generous in front of my friends and family. This year, I’ve decided that Christmas doesn’t need to be like this. There are actions we can all take that will minimise stress and help not just ourselves but also our communities and the planet.

The pressure to buy, buy, buy puts stress on our wallets, our mental health and our planet. At this time of year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But it doesn’t need to be the case. Although Christmas might be a time when we indulge tradition, we don’t always have to fall into old patterns.

One change we can make (as more and more people are) is deciding to give experiences as gifts rather than things. This not only reduce the manufacture of more ‘stuff’ (helping the planet) but increases happiness. With experiences as a gift, we have the joy of looking forward to it, living it and then the memory of it. It’s a chance to connect and share with others. The value of ‘stuff’ looks small in comparison.

The need for us change to change our behaviour is compelling. The planet can’t keep up with our demands. Earth Overshoot Day is 8th August and it gets earlier every year. That’s the day when we use more resources than the earth can replenish in that year.

Our wallets can’t keep up with these demands either, as pressure to buy has driven total credit card debt in the UK to £66.2 billion.

It’s also damaging our well-being. The negative impact on mental health associated with modern lifestyles costs the NHS an estimated £21billion per year.

So what can we do about it? We commissioned a report, Our Relationship with Stuff to look in detail at what drives us to consume in the first place, the cost to our well-being of the pursuit of ‘Stuff’, and to find alternative choices we can make to make us happier. Based on this insight, we have outlined four paths to improving well-being, as well as the health of our bank accounts and our planet.

Taking time out – a way of being

• Take short moments throughout the day to pause and consciously relax

• Mindfulness will help stress levels go down and make impulse purchases less likely

Choosing experiences, not things – a way of doing

• Get ‘doing’ – not consuming – by seeking experiences that will keep on giving.

• Creating memories is great fun in the present – and are worth more over the years than possessions.

Treasuring what we have – a way of having

• Reflect on good things in life – write down three things every day that you’re grateful for

• Appreciation usually makes us happier with what we’ve got. We’re less likely to buy things we don’t need, to try to solve problems we don’t have.

Decluttering life – a way of living

• Choose a simpler existence with fewer possessions and obligations.

• Feeling overloaded with mental and physical stuff can make us feel swamped. Doing and buying less gives we space for other things.

Get involved in our campaign #LessFestiveStress from now until 23

December, and download the report Our Relationship with Stuff.

Merry mindful Christmas!

Global Action Plan is an environmental behaviour change charity which brings people together and inspires them to take practical environmental action.