Mindfulness in sustainability science, practice, and teaching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper explores the current role of mindfulness in sustainability science, practice, and teaching. Based on a qualitative literature review that is complemented by an experimental learning lab, we sketch the patterns and core conceptual trajectories of the mindfulness–sustainability relationship. In addition, we assess this relationship within the field of climate change adaptation and risk reduction. The results highlight that notions such as ‘sustainability from within’, ‘ecological mindfulness’, ‘organizational mindfulness’, and ‘contemplative practices’ have been neglected in sustainability science and teaching. Whilst little sustainability research addresses mindfulness, there is scientific support for its positive influence on: (1) subjective well-being; (2) the activation of (intrinsic/ non-materialistic) core values; (3) consumption and sustainable behavior; (4) the human–nature connection; (5) equity issues; (6) social activism; and (7) deliberate, flexible, and adaptive responses to climate change. Most research relates to post-disaster risk reduction, although it is limited to the analysis of mindfulness-related interventions on psychological resilience. Broader analyses and foci are missing. In contrast, mindfulness is gaining widespread recognition in practice (e.g., by the United Nations, governmental and non-governmental organizations). It is concluded that mindfulness can contribute to understanding and facilitating sustainability, not only at the individual level, but sustainability at all scales, and should, thus, become a core concept in sustainability science, practice, and teaching. More research that acknowledges positive emotional connections, spirituality, and mindfulness in particular is called for, acknowledging that (1) the micro and macro are mirrored and interrelated, and (2) non-material causation is part of sustainability. This paper provides the first comprehensive framework for contemplative scientific inquiry, practice, and education in sustainability.


  • Christine Wamsler
  • Johannes Brossmann
  • Heidi Hendersson
  • Rakel Kristjansdottir
  • Colin McDonald
  • Phil Scarampi
External organisations
  • Lund University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Adaptation, Compassion, Contemplative teaching, Ecological mindfulness, Emotion, Inner transition, Organizational mindfulness, Other ways of knowing, Planning, Political mindfulness, Risk reduction, Spiritual ecology, Sustainability, Transformation, Well-being
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-162
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number1
Early online date2017 Apr 5
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan
Publication categoryResearch