The Benefits of Sustainable Projects

We at Econation are strong advocates of self-sufficiency, DIY, creativity, arts, and craftwork, all of which require concentrated attention. They also happen to provide plenty of well-being with little resource use and environmental harm.

Studies using self-reports have shown that people are usually happy when they are focussed on a task.1 On the other hand, when our minds are left to wander they tend to go chaotic and negative.

The reason has to do with the fact that there are two main networks in the brain that are responsible for conscious thought. The first one is called the Default Mode Network (DMN) which operates when we are not focussed on some specific task or activity. The DMN is mostly self-referential (about 90%) – it is all the chatter (I call it ‘ego-chatter’) that goes on your head when you aren’t thinking something else.

The other network is called the Task Positive Network (TPN or Dorsal attention network) and is responsible for thoughts related to the task in hand. The interesting thing, which I’m sure you have experienced, is that when the TPN is active it tends to block off the DMN, or at least ‘turn down the chatter’. When you are fully engrossed in a problem or a challenge you tend to lose a sense of self – and also time and place. This is essentially what ‘Flow‘ (or ‘being in the zone’) is – full engagement in a challenging and meaningful activity.

I believe people in modern societies spend too much time using their DMN and not enough time using the TPN.

Focussing on the task

It is possible to activate the TPN through meditation, yoga and similar practices. Meditation effectively quietens the ‘ego-chatter’ by focussing on something else, such as your breathing. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety and to transcend your ego.

Doing any challenging activity – playing sports, playing music, writing a book, mathematics, a work problem – can have the same effect – activating the TPN and deactivating the ‘ego-chatter’.

Challenging yourself

Another great set of activities is to immerse yourself in are sustainable projects.

What sort of project? It could be anything but we recommend that it is something that is environmentally sustainable and we suggest that it is something that could aid your self-sufficiency and overall well-being.

Some examples are:

  • Baking bread
  • Brewing beer
  • Woodwork
  • Metalwork
  • Basketry and weaving
  • Reading a good book
  • Fixing up an old bike – or anything
  • Playing in a band
  • Going fishing
  • Carving a bowl
  • Public speaking
  • Renovations at home
  • Making or altering a dress
  • Designing a poster
  • Growing vegetables
  • Knitting a jersey
  • Writing a book e.g. family history

Some of these things may not be that challenging once you get the hang of them, but they will be to begin with. You can always try to make things more challenging, or try something else. Learning any sort of skill is rewarding.

The key is in the challenge and the concentration required. However, it is important to not challenge yourself too much that you are overwhelmed or anxious. Baby steps!

The benefits of sustainable projects are:

  • They are environmentally sustainable
  • They can save you money
  • They are enjoyable
  • They will give you a sense of achievement
  • They will give you a break from your ego
  • They will build your confidence
  • They will build your skills – and you can then take on bigger challenges
  • They get you out of your comfort zone

Related topics:


  1. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row ↩︎