Mental sustainability

Have you ever heard about mental accounting? Well, “mental accounting is a concept that describes the mental processes we employ to organize our resource use”. This is part of the spectrum of sustainability.

We have talked about how there are different ways of being sustainable and different ways of sustainability itself. This one would be part of being a sustainable self, and existing on today’s world.

Human beings tend to have a mental “budget” where you dedicate time of your day to separate mental compartments where different actions, feelings and thoughts are stored. One might think this an awesome thing and that it’s a great system. But, in reality this can actually be counter-productive when it comes to energy consumption and can have a negative impact on attempts to reduce carbon emissions. According to an article in Science daily, “Psychologists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), working in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Western Switzerland (HES-SO Valais), have published a perspective in the highly influential journal Nature Energy.” “The article links theories and research on mental accounting to energy and sustainability behavior, proposing concrete strategies to improve the impact of climate-control measures.”

Mental accounting has been around since the 1980s. Mostly is a term known to psychologists. It describes how the human mind functions when performing acts of consumption. So, let’s say you want to go to the theater, so naturally you would buy a ticket but when you get to the box office you can’t find your ticket. What do you do? Do you buy a new ticket? No, you cut your losses and you leave because your budget for entertainment was spent. This is the perfect example to illustrate the tendency we have to mentally segment our budgets and link them to specific acts of consumption.

Our minds create these mental accounts with precise labels and pairs everything they way it sees the world. So, things that might go together for someone not necessarily will pair up in another’s mind.  For example: When we receive money, our mind processes this amount with whatever category was opened when this transaction happened. And that’s how this money will be spent.  “A monetary gift received for a birthday will be labelled ‘pleasure’, and will most likely be spent on pleasurable experiences,” says Professor Brosch by means of illustration. Realistically this can be problematic in “the context of sustainable decision-making.”

This is why, specially today, mental health keeps becoming more of a subject to pay attention to. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we are “budget overrun” on a lot of our mental tabs, and re directing energy on not beneficial, harming things. Being sustainable means being around. Living a healthy life that is enjoyable until our time on this world expires. More than ever, there’s no TIME to waste when we are reevaluating our mental budget!

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