Nature Photography with marysejansenart
Connecting to nature during the Hunt for Happiness Week 2022
What is happiness?
Have you ever heard of the Hunt for Happiness Week? It was founded 21 years ago in the United States of America. It’s aim is for us to take a closer look at the following questions:
How do we define happiness?
Happiness is not so easy to define, although we all know it when we feel it! It has to do with positive emotions that create a subjective well-being. Emotions such as joy, cheerfulness, contentment, pride, peacefulness, amusement and love. It’s also been related with a greater sense of life being good and meaningful.
These are feelings we all like to have. So, how do we achieve more happiness in our lives?
Hunting for Happiness in Nature
Nature has a big role to play in our Hunt for Happiness!
A walk in nature makes me feel happy. And in that respect there is nothing special about me! There’s a tonne of research that supports the benefits of spending time in nature for our mental and physical health. I touched on this topic earlier in my article ‘Instant Calm’, where I talked about some of the amazing benefits of spending time in nature, or even just looking at an image that depicts a natural scene. This article focused on the aspects of looking at water, and blue and green spaces. We are a very visually oriented species so the sights in nature are a good place to start to find a happy feeling!
If you’re on a hunt for happiness, nature is a go-to place for even more reasons then these beautiful sights.
Join me on this walk to find out why!
The first thing I do is take a look around and take in all the sights: the trees, the flowers, the butterflies, the birds …. whatever catches my eye!
- Beautiful colours are revealed on the trunks of gum trees as they shed their old bark. I love the time of year that this happens: a stand of trees with all dull brown trunks can suddenly turn into a spectacularly colourful scene with red, green, yellow, white and even silver coloured trunks! In the featured photo in this article you can clearly see the red trunks revealing themselves and really brightening up the picture! Just stunning!
- I see beautiful, intense purple flowers on the forest floor, that belong to the Native Sarsaparilla. (Check out my article about Pea Flowers to learn more).
- A little black bird with bright red markings on its back – the Red-backed Fairy-wren – stands out against the green reeds and grasses where its feeding.
- The fluttering movements of butterflies attract my attention and I admire the beautiful colours and patterns on their wings.
The visual sense often dominates our perception. Consequently it has also dominated most of the research in the field of the effects of nature on happiness. However, while we may be less conscious of them, our other senses play a big part as well!
Sounds make us feel more connected to our natural environment. They make it come to life!
Think about the sounds of nature such as wind, running water, bird song and other animal sounds.
- On this walk I constantly hear the sound of crickets and cicadas. To me, it’s a happy sound, because it’s associated with warmer temperatures. It’s the sound of summer!
- I also hear a lot of birds calling and singing. And although most of the birds I hear stay out of sight, their beautiful, sometimes weird and wonderful sounds do contribute to a pleasant experience out here in the bush.
- The breeze makes the leaves in the trees and bushes rustle slightly.
- I hear the raking sound of a Brush Turkey working on his nest.
The sounds tell us so much about what’s going on in our surroundings, that we often know about things before we see them!
For instance, I usually hear a bird before I see it. The sound often leads me to the sightings. That is exactly what happened with the Red-backed Fairy-wren I just mentioned! The visual features (the contrasting colours) helped me find it after I started looking based on the sound I heard. This also applies to other animals: a rustle in the undergrowth might mean that there’s a goanna wandering around. The sound of bees not only tells me where the bees are, but also leads me to the beautiful flowers they are visiting!
I believe my experiences underscore the fact that in research nature sounds have been reported to relieve stress and anxiety and also to increase a sense of pleasure. Adding sound to the visuals makes the place come to life! It increases our appreciation of this place and our feelings of attachment towards it. In fact, we find our much sought after ‘peace and quiet’ in a place that has natural sounds more readily than in a place that is completely silent!
Then there’s the sense of smell. As we have recently received a fair bit of rain, the forest has a particular smell of damp earth during my walk which I find quite pleasant. The gum trees smell of eucalyptus which is a fairly dominating smell in typical Australian Bushland like this. When there’s a koala about, this smell becomes even stronger, so when you’re in luck your nose can lead you to a koala sighting! It won’t be a surprise that our noses can also lead us to beautiful flowers.
Many natural smells such as the fragrance of flowers and approaching rain are considered pleasant. Pleasant smells have been found to have a positive effect on our mood and well-being. Smells are strongly connected in our brain to experiences so when you smell certain natural fragrances they can also trigger pleasant memories from your time in nature! That could well relate to the fact that so many household products have popular natural fragrances like eucalyptus, lemon or lavender. So when my clean sheets smell slightly like eucalyptus, they make me feel good because it (subconsciously) reminds me of my walks in the bush!
Greatly neglected in research is our sense of touch in nature and the effects on our well-being. But just stop for a moment and imagine the pleasant feeling of a slight breeze on your cheeks, your bare feet on the grass or in the sand or the feeling of swirling your hands in the water. Our tactile experiences form another important part of our interactions with the environment and can no doubt enhance our sense of happiness and pleasure!
Come for a walk with me in the Australian Bush!
Today I am excited to be launching a new project: a video-series titled ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush!’ Watch the first video here and be sure to turn your sound up to enjoy nature’s sounds alongside the sights and to hear my story. I can’t give you the experience of smell and touch here but I hope you are inspired to go out on a ‘Hunt for Happiness Walk’ yourself and pay attention to all your senses! I would like to invite you to share your experiences of what made you happy in the comments!
If you’d like to purchase ‘Australian Bush Scene – Gum Trees shedding Bark’ or would like to see what it would look like on the various products, please head to my shop!