Achieving happiness through simplicity and nature

Imagine your favorite place on the planet. Odds are you’ll picture a family-filled house on a lake, a serene forest to escape to, an adventurous hike in the mountains or a sunny beach, playing sand volleyball with friends. Exploring nature, spending time with loved ones and protecting the beautiful planet may be some of the most important factors in attaining happiness. Author William Powers captivated us with stories about his life and passions during a talk last week. He has worked in development aid and conservation across multiple continents.

His lecture emphasized the importance of slowing down to increase mindfulness and embrace simplicity. Residing in a 12 by 12-foot cabin or a 350-square-foot “micro-apartment” certainly requires a simpler lifestyle. Experiences such as these make up the content for books Powers has written in the past. His most recent work, “Dispatches from the Sweet Life,” chronicles the difficulties and delights of his current home life. Powers now lives on a five acre permaculture experimental piece of land in Bolivia with his wife and kids.

Along with the benevolent community, the family strives to focus on and practice sustainability in their everyday lives. By attempting to escape the endless consumerism of society, they are able to begin reducing their carbon footprint while inspiring others to do the same. The Powers’ main goals are to minimize their dependence on the market and discover new ways to live creatively. Their land is home to 50 different types of fruit. Some people believe there to be a significant link between happiness and nature. “Last time I checked, we have this beautiful creation of 300 million other species. Connecting to that more-than-human matrix is what a lot of psychologists show will bring out more joy,” said Powers. It becomes increasingly common today that people, especially children, may be suffering from nature deficit disorder as they spend less time outdoors.

Powers additionally offered some suggestions to further improve Hope’s sustainability as well as student happiness. Mindfully walk to and from classes to more deeply notice nature. Expand dorm kitchens to encourage students to cook meals together. Become involved in activist communities. Contemplate and meditate. Lily Vogt (’19), co-president of Green Hope, resonated with Powers’ messages. “Oftentimes we have such busy lives and we lose track of how we actually feel about things. I think going back to a more simple lifestyle where you’re not racing around, you get time to think about who you are and what you believe. Giving yourself room to think allows you to be more happy and focus on what you want to do with your life,” said Vogt. Green Hope will be a part of various events throughout the semester such as Recyclemania. Keep an eye out for training sessions this semester to further immerse yourself into a sustainable life.

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