Cultivating spiritual well-being for sustainability: A pilot study

Erica Berejnoi, David Messer, Scott Cloutier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Sustainability science has focused predominantly on external/technological solutions to environmental degradation while giving insufficient attention to the role of spiritual well-being for holistic sustainability. While it is important for students to learn about solutions in a time where environmental problems have been identified as prevalent, that alone is not enough. We propose that sustainability may start as a deep individual internal process manifested as a change of values stemming from enhanced spiritual well-being. The current study examined whether a novel sustainability classroom curriculum, including contemplative practices (CPs), increased traits indicative of spiritual development and well-being and happiness, which are theorized to increase sustainable behavior (SB). Students attended a 15-week university course promoting SB through CPs in a space intended to be safe and supportive. Participants were compared to unenrolled peers and completed pre-and post-intervention quantitative measures of (1) happiness, (2) self-compassion, and (3) SB, and qualitative questions investigating spiritual development and well-being. Multivariate and univariate follow-up analyses indicated that course participation increased student self-compassion and happiness, while SB was unaffected. Qualitative reports indicated that CPs led students to develop spiritual traits, a systems’ thinking mentality and an awareness of their interconnectedness. Students, also, assigned greater importance to spiritual well-being as a prerequisite for SB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10342
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2 2020


  • Contemplative practice
  • Happiness
  • Inner sustainability
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Sustainable behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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