How Do We Want to Live?

What’s Important

Few of us like thinking about death. If anything, it might be the most avoided subject out there. This is unfortunate considering how pertinent it is. Billions of dollars are spent annually in hospitals and untold pain endured for patients and families because end of life wishes aren’t communicated. Furthermore, many spiritual and psychologies posit that, on the deepest level, fear of death causes most of our needless suffering.

Untold quantities of money and emotional suffering could be avoided by looking at death. Furthermore, we might learn how to live better.. The country Bhutan not only measures GDP but also its Gross Domestic Happiness Index. As part of promoting well-being it encourages citizens to think about death daily. Instead of avoiding looking at death, facing it puts much into perspective.

It isn’t just a country in the Himalayas that takes this approach. Frank Ostaseski, Buddhist teacher, lecturer and founder of Zen Hospice Project, has a wonderful article where he talks about how much we can learn from death. Additionally, Atul Gawande-researcher, American surgeon and author-says it’s important we face death to inform what choices we make in our life. In an interview with Krista Tippett on “On Being”, Gawande discusses how the heathcare industry’s emphasis on preventing death and keeping people alive has come at the expense of the quality of life. He suggests that when we acknowledge limitations and the realities of our own mortality, we get clarity about what is important to us. This empowers us to live according to what we value and want.

To learn more how a satisfying life = time spent outdoors…
Hopefully, most of us aren’t terminally ill and have a long life ahead of us. This shouldn’t preclude us from facing our limitations-death, time, resources, etc-to have more perspective on what is important to us. We think most of you want to be healthy and happy, living in vibrant communities and have meaningful relationships. Having a peaceful mind, less stress, more joy and love are probably more important than how many Facebook friends you have or whether you have the newest iPhone. If this is the case, then we are here to say: GET OUTSIDE!

There is increasing research coming from various scientific fields that attest to the psychological and physiological benefits of being in nature. Here are just a few highlights of what the studies have found about the impacts of nature: reduced stress, anxiety and depression, while also heightening innovation, attention, connection, emotional mood and mental well-being.

If we know time is short and we can’t do and have it all, and we’re clear that quality is more important than quantity in life, then spending more time outside should be obvious. Though many of us think we do this, it’s important to note the average person spends 93% of their life inside. Even if you’re above the average, you likely spend less time outside than you think. If you question this, do an experiment and keep track for a week.

We can’t spend too much time outdoors. The benefits are real and significant. That said, life doesn’t just stop so we can do this. We must make it a priority and reflect on what we’re willing to sacrifice. If this seems difficult, come back to death. Ask yourself, if I had six months to live what is most important to me, how do I want to spend my time. Instead of feeling morbid, we believe you’ll be inspired to live better. At the EcoPsychology Initiative, that’s what we’re all about.

by Dennis Kiley

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