I think it is safe to say that I was not born with a sunny disposition. The majority of my life has been spent observing, contemplating, and fretting internally about things over which I have no control. Few and far between are the times when I feel completely at peace with myself and the world around me. Sleep doesn’t count because the ache in my jaws every morning only assures me that my anxious brain was still working overtime even after everything else shut down for the night.
But I found solace this past weekend, if only for a few hours, and that peace eventually crept into my later hours when I was tranquilly asleep. Earlier in the day, I watched a documentary called Happy, which provides both a personal and scientific look at what makes us happy, how people achieve happiness, and how much of it is actually the product of opposing sides from the nature vs. nurture debate. More importantly, I felt validated in defending my personality (to a point) and the film responded to my biggest question regarding personal happiness: Is there anything I can do about it?
Seeing as I had already planned my first trip to a local nature park with a friend that afternoon, my answer came in the form of spending those couple of hours outside. We explored a nearby creek, crossed over bridges built into the sides of red rock walls, watched a deer graze in the woods, and just enjoyed the sun and the fresh air beneath the canopy of autumn colored trees. It was a long moment of bliss for me and I noticed how happy I felt. Happy and exhausted, but this time I was exhausted for all the right reasons.
I crawled into bed after exclaiming to my husband, “What a fantastic day I had!” and before I closed my eyes for the night, I read a few pages from Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. I learned for the first time of a term called biophilia and a newly emerging interdisciplinary study on the biophilia theory.
The biophilia theory, though not universally embraced by biologists, is supported by a decade of research that reveals how strongly and positively people respond to open, grassy landscapes, scattered stands of trees, meadows, water, winding trails, and elevated views.
It certainly works for me.