Environmental Activist Leaders Resilience Training 2022

Some eco-aware activities give us stress and a sense of gloom, doom, or overwhelm.  If there was a way to make changes to your activism so it feels good, it’s uplifting, and joyful, wouldn’t that be a great way to live?

Individuals who participated in the workshop and research project indicated that by the end of the training they felt more autonomous, that they had greater control over their environments, they had a greater sense of personal growth, and a greater sense of purpose in life.

The intentions and process of the workshop are summarized in the March 2022 blog post “Four Steps for a Resilient Live: Reflecting on Embodied Activism and Overwhelm.”

How the Four Steps for a Resilient Life were presented in this workshop

Step 1 – REVIEW: “What Actions Am I Taking Now; What Do I Want to Do?” 

  • List everything you do or have done to support the planet and all its beings. Make this list as extensive as you’d like, from small to massive impact/effort.
  • Then add to the bottom of that list any activities that you want to do, wish you could do, or feel like you should be doing but are not doing now.

Step 2 – REJOICE: “Which Actions Make Me Happy or are Easy to Do?”

  • Go back through the items from Step 1 and put a check in a second column next to each item that brings you joy. If it’s an activity you are not currently doing, just imagine how it would feel to do it. Don’t overthink this – when you read a line item, notice if your breath is open and full, if your heart sings, and you have a hint of a smile on your face. If it makes you happy, add a checkmark.
  • Take a few moments to recognize, honor, and celebrate each item you’ve checked off – it’s good stuff! ✨✨✨

Step 3 – REFLECT: “Which Actions are Stressful or Difficult?”

  • In Step 3 you capture some of the stressors that arise when you do these activities. Include any concerns that impact your family, finances, time, energy, personality, passions, and heart as you reflect on each list item.
  • As you go through the items from Step 1 that you did not check off in Step 2, take a breath or two on each item and notice if your breath constricts, if you furrow your brow, clench your teeth, or grip through your gut.
  • Then for each of the items from Step 1 that fit in this category, make a note about why it is stressful, why it is NOT joyful. How is doing this activity draining, uncomfortable, or upsetting? Try to be as nonjudgmental as possible – make it an honest assessment.

Step 4 – REIMAGINE: “What Can I Shift to Support My Well-being?”

  • One list item at a time, review the activities you noted in Step 3, and reflect on all the effort that goes into each one. 
  • Then ask yourself these questions:
    • Reduce: Are there any changes you could make that could help you reduce the level of stress that arises when you do this? Can you reduce the amount of personal effort you take on this topic or activity? Could someone else help with this? Could you change when or how often you do this?
    • Reframe: Is there some way to reframe this activity so that you know you’re still having a comparable impact but in a way that feels more comfortable for you? For example, maybe you shift from showing up in person for an event to sending an email, making a phone call, writing a letter, or engaging a friend to go in your place. 
    • Release/Remove: How would it feel to simply stop doing this one activity altogether? One aspect of Embodied Activism is paying attention to your internal wellness gauge. Tune into your breath and body and ask again: “How would it feel to stop doing this one activity?” What time/effort/funds would this free up for you to take care of yourself or explore new ideas for your activism? If you look at the number and depth of items you checked in Step 2, is there a possibility that you could offer yourself some grace in accepting that even if you give up this one item from Step 3, it would still be ok? That what you are doing – what feels most resilient – what makes you happy – is perfect?
Shift your focus to embodied activism that feels good! Details in blog post text.

In the workshop, trainees are guided and offered support through this process.

Image credit: Phoebe Pinkner

Preliminary Report Prepared by Tyler D. Staples, MS LMLP for The Resilient Activist February 3, 2023

Connect with Tyler Staples


Specific Research Questions and Hypotheses

The research question of investigation was as follows: Would a novel 6-hour resilience training curriculum lead to improvements in psychological well-being? There was one outcome hypothesized regarding the originally proposed research question, that there will be a statistically significant increase in well-being as measured by each of the four measured subscales of the Ryff Scales of Psychological Wellbeing. These four subscales include: Autonomy or “the ability to resist social pressures to think and act in particular ways, regulate behavior from with in, and evaluate oneself based on personal standards”; Environmental Mastery, or “the ability to control a complex array of external activities and leverage opportunities; the capacity to choose or create contexts that suit needs and values”; Purpose in Life, or “the feeling that there is meaning to present and past life and holding beliefs that give life purpose as well as aims and objectives for living”; and Personal Growth, or “openness to new experiences, realization of oneone’s potential and perceived imp rovement in self and behavior over time, and change that reflects greater self knowledge and effectiveness.” 1

Statistical Analyses

A repeated-measures, pretest-posttest design was utilized. The dependent variables were the level of psychological well-being as measured by four subscales of the Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being: Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, Personal Growth, and Purpose in Life. The recommended statistical analysis for a repeated measures, pretest posttest design is a paired-samples t-test (Field, 2018). A t-test was completed for each of the subscales. Paired-samples t-tests determined if participants’ scores were significantly different from pretest to posttest. The paired-samples t-tests were analyzed using IBM’s Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) program. To assess for effect size Cohen’s d was used (2018).


Training Attendance, Participant Demographics, & Study Participation

In total, 21 Environmental Leaders/Activists attended a 6-hour training led by the staff from The Resilient Activist, along with other volunteers. 15 activists (N) who attended completed both the pretest and posttest assessments. Of the 21 original attendees, 13 (61.9%) identified as female, 6 (28.6%) identified as male, 1 identified as non binary (4.8%) and 1 did not respond (4.8%). When asked about identified race, 18 (85.7%) stated they identified as being White or European, 1 as Native American (4.8%), 1 (4.8%) as Black, and 1 (4.8%) did not respond (see Tables 1a & 1b below for a summary of identified gender and race information for each training attendee and participant). The average attendee age was 50.2 years (SD=16.8; see Tables 2a & 2b below for a summary of reported age for each training attendee and participant).

Hypothesis-Testing Results

A paired-samples t-test was conducted to determine if participants’ Ryff subscales scores were significantly different between pretest and posttest. For the Autonomy subscale, the analysis revealed a statistically significant difference between participants’ pretest (M=38.40, SD=5.25) and posttest scores (M=41.20, SD=4.87; t(14) = 2.75, p = .008; η2=.529). With the Personal Growth subscale, the analysis revealed a statistically significant difference between participants’ pretest (M=39.60, 4.19) and posttest scores (M=42.27, SD=3.99; t(14)=4.23, p<.001; η2 = .561). Finally, for the Purpose in Life subscale, participants scores revealed a statistically significant difference between pretest (M=36.73, SD=4.15) and posttest scores (M=39.27, SD=4.67; t(14) = 4.53, p<.001; η2=.594).


Discussion of Results

The primary aim of the current study was to investigate the impact, if any, of a novel, 6-hour resilience training curriculum led by The Resilient Activist on measures of psychological well-being in Environmental Leaders. Results showed that the training curriculum did indeed increase scores on four subscale measures psychological well-being, including Autonomy with a 7.3% increase in scores, Environmental Mastery with an 8.3% increase, Personal Growth with 6.7%, and Purpose in Life with a 6.9% increase. In short, psychological well-being did appear to be positively impacted by the novel curriculum. Individuals indicated that by the end of the training they felt more autonomous, that they had greater control over their environments, they had a greater sense of personal growth, and a greater sense of purpose in life.

Limitations & Future Directions

The study’s small sample size (N=15) poses some limitations in interpreting the above data. The comparison data from studies with small sample sizes are highly influenced by changes in the data. The small sample size also hinders the ability to draw general inferences of the data, given that small sample sizes are likely to be non-representative of the population of interest.

It is also important to note that the statistical methods by which the data are analyzed change when sample sizes are non-normal and thereby less likely to be representative. These statistical methods were not utilized in the current study. For instance, in future studies that involve a comparison of means such as the current study whereby the sample distribution is non-normal and/or contains outlier cases, a Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test would be utilized (if effect were also to be investigated, Hedge’s Correction would be used).

1Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719-727