Happy February! We wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day, Lunar New Year, and Black History Month. We, at SHADOW, hope you will take some time for yourself this month and learn about self-care, dazzling dragonflies, organic farming, and how you can join us in some fantastic events that will help you keep habitat at the heart of your self-care routine this month.

Ahh February, a month associated with the return of light to the Pacific Northwest and, for many, expressions of love and endearment. What better time to adopt Environmental Self Care practices into your daily life and this month’s celebrations of Valentine’s and Galentines! This is also an excellent time to do an ensure that your newly adopted practices and expressions of endearment also “show the love” to your neighbors, the planet and biodiversity. As with all things, what you buy matters, and you have the opportunity to incorporate community building and biodiversity preserving practices into your purchasing and care habits.

If you are querying what environmental self care is, don’t worry, I needed to do a little digging to understand the concept too (and not the kind that involved a shovel and weed removal here at the preserve, but that certainly can be a part of your self-care!). Think about your environment, it’s not only the amazing landscapes that we all live and play in around where we live and beyond in our breathtaking state. It is the places where we live and work, our cars and cubicles, our homes, and favorite haunts: in essence, our habitats. How we maintain them can have a profound effect on our mental and physical health as well as our productivity and engagement with others. Some environmental stressors are out of our control, like major disturbances from natural disasters, family emergencies, or the constant anthropogenic stressors of noise and light pollution. But others are more subtle and there are ways we can employ self-care practices to mitigate their effects. Some of these practices might be increasing the amount of time you get in nature on a regular basis so you get enough natural light or looking at how you organize your work space to improve your posture. Some easy things to do are to add plants around your workspace (but make sure they are safe for your furry friends) and to use natural home products without synthetic scents that cause scent pollution.

You can also expand these practices to focus on how you interact and support the world around you, bringing health not only to yourself, but also to your family, your community, and the natural world around you. Being a part of the community outside your immediate family can also influence your health for the better. Pursuing engaging hobbies, volunteering, or participating in team or club activities extends your support system and social networks. Activities such as donating blood, helping at a local shelter, playing in a local sports league or Dungeons and Dragons group, or volunteering with groups like SHADOW can really have a positive impact on you and the group.

Participating in fun celebrations such as this month’s Valentine’s and Galantine’s showing people who are important in your life how much they mean to you is another way of engaging in self-care. Fostering good social relationships is the most consistent indicator of a happy life according to an article shared by Stanford Medicine. “Relationships are connected to some of our strongest emotions.” Thomas Oppong wrote. Doing self-care so that relationships are positive, and satisfying are associated not only with happiness, but with better health and longevity outcomes.

Your purchases can also have a profound impact on your self-care and that of the world around you. Eliminate toxic chemicals from your cleaning, beauty, and body care products. Buy organic produce, if possible. This self-care ethic can be a part of your celebrations this month. When you are looking for that perfect Valentine’s or Galentine’s treat, don’t forget to incorporate your newly found Environmental Self Care ethos into your search. Look for chocolates that are biodiversity, ethical, and sustainably sourced.There are many companies that are sourcing chocolate in ways that are now reforesting habitat as well as benefiting small farmers and being bird friendly in the process. All of this adds up to a sweet way to care for yourself, your special someone, and the nature we all love.

By: SHADOW Executive Director, Stephanie Miller