As humans we are incredibly smart, calculating and savvy creatures; traits that in my mind, seem to work both to our benefit and detriment. These days, the thought of that leaves me with the leery feeling that those efforts and energy might be slightly misplaced. This came to the forefront of my mind not too long ago when I found myself nauseated by yet another internet blurb telling me to chase after the life of my dreams. It was annoying because I didn’t know what that life was and felt immense pressure to somehow figure it out and make it snappy, or else.
A topic that has always fascinated me is our own cultural fascination with obtaining happiness, contentment, and complete and utter bliss. To be honest, it doesn’t so much annoy but interest me because I do think that the overarching message of this concept is really well-intentioned and inherently good, however, in our wired and disjointed world that goal just doesn’t seem real.
As a person who has struggled their entire life with sometimes debilitating mental illness, genetically inherited and environmentally triggered mood disorders and an obsession with perfectionism, I have well-laid plans to spend the rest of my days not just maintaining and managing myself but enjoying this life, too. You might be wondering why is this relevant to eco-friendly living or the average person. Well, it’s because most “average” and everyday people are likely to be suffering from a mental disorder — the World Health Organization calculates that number is 1 in 4 which equals a cool 450 million, worldwide. These same people are the ones who are encouraged to Get Happy Now but live in world that doesn’t really support that idea because as studies have shown, the elements that naturally bring us happiness and ease are slowly but surely disappearing.
Abraham Maslow, the unwitting mascot and inspiration for the name of this blog, said “The sacred is in the ordinary…it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s own backyard…To be looking elsewhere for miracles is to me a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.”
In a study done by a pair of psychologists published in the American Psychological Association called “Green is Good”, they found that the effects of being in and around nature — any nature — provided the type of restoration and fascination our brains and bodies need to repair mental and physical clarity. The distinct separation between “Directed Attention” — what many city dwellers, mentally dis-eased people, and social media obsessed users experience too much of — and “Fascination”, a more open-minded and receptive state of mind led them to make the connection that the our wonderment of the natural world, actually and scientifically makes us happier.
Let that soak in for a moment.
“What we desperately need is connection with our blood and soil,” says Juhasz, a professor of architecture and environmental design at the University of Colorado in Boulder. “We’re estranged from our blood–ourselves as human beings, and our soil, our natural environment–at this moment in our culture.”
These findings have only increased overtime with the sentiments being echoed in publications like the New York Times and now more than ever people recognize that the one of the greatest and most healing remedies for mental disease, however serious, is right outside our door.
So, eco-friendly and conscious living isn’t just a way of life, it’s something that sustains, nurtures, and connects us to the health of ourselves, each other and the world. Living a life that sees convenience, ease and immediate gratification as the answer isn’t something to feel ashamed or guilty of, in fact, it’s slowly been built for us since the Industrial Revolution happened hundreds of years ago to make more stuff and faster. To heal these broken systems and what even feels like a broken world we have to make intentional choices to not always choose the easiest option and that is hard. Yet, despite the difficulty and serious lack of glamour, I’d argue that making the decision everyday to appreciate The Basic Goods of life by connecting to and being in awe of our natural world is the fastest way to happiness.