Happiness. It’s a universal desire, and a popular subject for books. The authors tell us to create gratitude lists, eat dinner with our families, watch funny videos, and line our bathroom mirrors with positive affirmations. That’s all well and good. But I have an easier way to be happier. And it’s instantaneous.
This morning I needed an attitude adjustment. For no particular reason, I wasn’t felling particularly happy. But I knew exactly what to do to set myself straight, to readjust to the happiness line that I would always rather be walking along the road of life.
I went outside.
Being in nature has so many benefits. Making us happy is one of them. It’s one of the reasons people love going on safari in Africa. There, the sights, sounds and smells of nature surround you. Immersed in nature, it work’s it’s healing magic on your mind, body, and soul. The result: You feel happier.
Luckily you don’t have to go on safari in Africa to reap the healing and happiness benefits of nature.
Most of us feel good strolling through a park, hiking or skiing in the mountains, sitting in our gardens, spending time at the beach, or snowshoeing. You can find places to reap nature’s beneficial effects wherever you are.
I am sitting in my garden, surrounded by chirping birds, writing this post. And I definitely feel better than I did earlier today.
Notice the Scenery
Just looking at a natural scene activates parts of the brain associated with balance and happiness. In a study at South Korea’s Chonnam National University, MRI scans showed that when people see images of mountains, forests, and other landscapes, they experience heightened activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus (which is linked to positive outlook and emotional stability), and the basal ganglia (an area that’s been tied to the recollection of happy memories). So, take in the scenery, sit and stare at a natural scene, and you’ll feel happier.
Breathe the Water
Negative ions—particles that are plentiful near waterfalls, breaking waves, and river rapids—can act as natural antidepressants, according to Columbia University researchers. One study found that after breathing negative ions for an hour, subjects’ blood lactate levels dropped 33 percent, improving their energy levels. And we know energy levels often correlate to whether we are feeling happy or not.
Another easy way to take in negative ions is to do what the Kahlarhari bushmen have done all their life. Walk barefoot.
Learn how to get the most ions (feel better) out of your barefoot walk.
Bathe in the Woods
The Japanese knew that shinrin-yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, does wonderful things for the body. But now researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School have quantifiable evidence. In one study, women who spent two to four hours in the woods on two consecutive days experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells. When my body is healthy, I am happier.
All good reasons to get outside, take off your shoes (or put on snowshoes), and slow down enough to take in the scenery. You’ll feel happier for having done it.