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University of East Anglia offers a new course to help students cope with eco-anxiety

Temperatures spiking globally. Droughts, flooding and violent storms becoming the norm where they were once the exception. Communities losing their livelihoods. Animals running out of habitat. As the implications of the climate crisis become increasingly palpable, it's no wonder people feel a new sense of fear and sadness.

Reaching maturity at a moment when the future looks bleak, young people can be especially prone to climate grief. To provide them with support and coping skills, the University of East Anglia now runs a 'Mindfulness and Active Hope' course, the only one of its kind in the UK. 

Six weekly sessions aim to help students learn how to transform their eco-anxiety into 'active hope' — the course draws on the bestselling book of the same name by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. Mindfulness techniques will be taught to cultivate calm and build self-care routines. UAE developed the course in partnership with local mental health charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind.

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Research published in The Lancet in September 2021 found that, of people aged 16 to 25 years, "Over 45% said their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning, and many reported a high number of negative thoughts about climate change."

The distress experienced by those surveyed is strongly related to inadequate government response, which leaves them feeling betrayed rather than reassured. Insufficient response from leaders, combined with a world that's more uncertain than ever, means people will increasingly seek out — and rely on — empathic organizations like the University of East Anglia to help them build resilience.