What if there were a way to increase your level of happiness, creativity and sense of wellbeing that doesn’t cost money? Would you do it? So instead of a magic pill or waiting for someone else to help, can spending more time outdoors make you a happier person?
How happy are you now?
Take a moment to decide how happy you are right now. Use this scale of 1 to 10 to do that.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
The Happiness Scale
1 (not at all) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (over the moon)
Taking a snapshot of where you are right at this moment will allow you to see if you can move that number with the following ideas.
What is happiness anyway?
Research suggests that happiness is a combination of satisfaction and how you feel. According to Acacia Parks, Ph. D. ” The research suggests that happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.”
Positive Psychology has been studying happiness and teaching classes on the science of happiness since the work of Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tracking happiness – a short digression
Good news! There is an app for that (of course there is). In fact there are several types of apps available. These range in approach from tracking (journaling) what you are doing over time that adds up to a happiness quotient, sharing things you like that make you happy with others and using tips and exercises to connect thoughts and behaviors into those that will make you happier (Cognitive Behavior based).
Online check out the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (P.S In this questionnaire I discovered I was not “too” happy).
Back to business – Experiencing Nature
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery –
air, mountains, trees, people. I thought,
‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
If reading this quotation evokes a sharpening of your senses right now, you are already enjoying the ability to enjoy the wave of sensory data that comes when a person is outdoors.
If your response to the quotation is more moderate, all is not lost. Just by spending a bit more time in the outdoors your ability to stay in the moment and really experience what is happening can improve (and that leads to happiness in the moment).
Plenty of research has been done and here are some key points to consider:
• Research has shown that those who have nature outside a window or even photos or paintings of landscapes near them (and pay attention to them) are able to deal with pain and stress better that those who do not. (Franklin, 2012).
• In several east Asian countries “forest bathing” has become popular as it reduces stress. Studies of this practice show that our sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. Trees and plants emit volatile organic compounds. These compounds called phytoncides slow down breathing and reduce anxiety. In addition Japan’s Forestry Agency has created a network of Forest Therapy Trails on which rangers monitor visitor’s blood pressure.
• Sounds of water flowing or rain can have a calming effect and the sounds of birds’ singing is reassuring to us according to studies by The Sound Agency.
• Creativity can be improved by being in nature and David Strayer, Ph.D. finds that four days backpacking in nature improved people’s creativity by 50%.
• Rumination (associated with anxiety and depression) is reduced by walking in nature according to a 2015 study by Gregory Bratman of Stanford University. “Participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, and area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety – a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.”
Take the test – Out you go!
Use that happiness scale at the beginning of this article and find your number. Then go outside for a stroll, to work in the garden, draw your favorite flower or whatever you choose. When you are finished, use that happiness scale and notice the number. Is it a higher number? If not, don’t give up, as the ability to stay in the moment of what is currently happening can be a challenge.
Just continue to take small steps on your way to real happiness that continues moment to moment.
Being outdoors and delivering happiness
Although research may be fun to read, you may recognize that it doesn’t explain everything. Can science catch up to what some folks intuitively know about the happiness possible in the outdoors? Poets have written about how nature renews our spirits, allows us to feel better, think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.
And that sounds like the journey of real happiness!
Can spending more time outdoors make you a happier person? You bet!
Connect here with Watchfit Expert Dorothy Rodwell