Concluding the Experiment

My Experiment: Part 13

You can read Part 12 here: Removing Barriers

My goal when starting this experiment was to determine if a complete change in circumstances would help me break out of the unpleasant mental states I was experiencing in San Francisco. I felt stuck in a life lived on autopilot, reacting automatically to circumstances that were making me miserable. (See My Experiment: Part 1 – Introduction for a refresher). I reached a point where I had to try something different.

After six months in Costa Rica and two months in northern Wisconsin, I’m calling the experiment a success. My life is unequivocally better now than it was before. I’m much more present in my daily existence, choosing the life I want to live. I had many theories for the cause of my misery, but now I think the critical factor was not spending enough time outside, living too far away from nature.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from this experiment is that I need to spend a lot of time outside. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between time spent outside and happiness. I suspected this before, my best times in the Bay Area were spent outside. The only thing I truly liked about my previous job was the location right next to the bay. While having lunch next to the water each day, I felt great. It was only while trapped inside, in another mindless meeting that the soul-sucking commenced.

A growing body of evidence supports this idea. I recently listened to an audiobook, The 3-Day Effect, which describes research into the physiological and psychological effects of nature on the brain. Spending time in nature produces measurable effects on the mind and body, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m feeling better. One aspect of the book that particularly struck me came from work done at the Greater Good Science Center, about the feeling of awe created by nature.

That’s something I can relate to, I’m constantly awestruck by the beauty of the natural world, it fills me with wonder and stuns my overactive brain into silence. Since starting this experiment, I’ve had much more awe in my life. In Costa Rica, I lived next to the beach surrounded by jungle, now I’m next to a lake and surrounded by forest. Being in nature, especially when I’m alone, soothes me like no other balm. I can just bask in the grandeur of my surrounding and feel the splendor suffuse my entire being. I forget about anything bothering me and everything feels right with the world.

Even though I’m definitely happier than I was. I sometimes catch shadows of my former negative thought patterns arising. I still have to spend a significant amount of time in front of a computer, and I still have to deal with bills and the depressing news about our world. But It’s nothing like my former life, where I felt like I barely survived each week. I can see how I could slip back into negativity, if I’m not careful. Luckily, easy access to nature helps me focus on positivity, instead of dwelling on negativity. I have some more things to figure out, but now I’m on the right track. While the experiment is far from over (it will never really be over), I’m going to write about some other topics for a while. Especially nature 😉

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