Nature, and Happiness
Nature has always been something that I have enjoyed in my life. Walking through a park, swimming in the ocean, or playing with a dog are just a few examples of how nature has affected me positively. In fact, a large reason I chose to study abroad in Australia was to experience its biodiversity, beautiful landscapes, and outstanding beaches. I realized that nature was a huge part of my life so I decided to dig deeper in order to understand how it made me feel, and possibly why as well. I determined that my involvement with nature strongly influenced my health, stress levels, and happiness. Furthermore, I found that there was a plethora of empirical, and evolutionary evidence to prove this.
Before coming to study in Australia I went to a university in the city of Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell was the pinnacle of modern technology during the American industrial revolution in the 19th century. However, that is as modern as Lowell ever got, and the remnants of the old factories still dominate the city today. I lacked energy, motivation, happiness, and was suffering from severe migraines on a weekly basis. After reading an article on how to find happiness in nature I determined I was experiencing nature-deficit disorder (Bloom, 2009). The theory is that humans are being pushed away from nature in modern times, and, likewise, we are being pushed away from an environment that allows us to function properly (Louv, 2009). I was overcome with sudden burst of enthusiasm to study abroad, and several months later I ended up here. I have made it a ritual to involve myself with nature here, my happiness levels have been significantly higher, and I have not had a single headache since I have been here. By analyzing my interaction with nature in a deeper fashion I was able to see these effects on several levels. One of the greatest ways my involvement with nature has affected me was by improving my physical health. One woman, who dealt with frequent migraines, and exhaustion moved from the city to rural Scotland and found that her reconnection with nature alleviated all her ailments (Stewart, 2012). Without paying attention it is easy to miss this correlation. I first noticed it when I visited the Minnamurra Rainforest. I had hurt my neck three days before, it was still bothering me, and I was not getting much sleep because of it as well. I felt tired on the bus ride there; however, this completely changed the moment I entered the rainforest. The sound of the birds in canopy provided a calming background noise while I walked along the rainforest path. As the cool ocean breeze mixed with the abundance of freshly scented plant life I felt invigorated. To top it off, the ancient trees, and picturesque waterfalls kept my eyes wandering, and me wondering. My senses had felt as though they had been shocked to maximum power, and a surge of powerful, yet calming, energy seemed to pass through me. This feeling seemed to last for the remainder of the day, and when I woke up the next morning my neck felt completely fine. I was unsure of the astounding results. Could nature really have this strong of an effect on me? Dr. Roger Ulrich would say absolutely. A study he conducted in 1984 looked at two groups of patients recovering from gall bladder surgery. One group had a window view of trees outside, while the other group’s window view comprised only a brick wall. The results showed that the group who viewed the trees outside had a faster recovery time, fewer complaints about the nurses, and fewer injections of painkillers compared to the group who viewed the brick wall (Ulrich, 1991). The effect almost appears magical, but it is very real. By involving myself in a natural environment I actually increased my bodies effectiveness, and became a healthier, happier person.
Realizing that nature could have such a strong effect on my physical well being, I pondered…