Skip to main content

Letter from Publisher

Headshot of publisher Peggy Malecki

Peggy Malecki

Happiness is a topic that’s been written about throughout human history, and the subject of countless songs, poems, paintings, movies, websites and self-help books. Is it an emotion, a state of being, a moment in time, a lifestyle choice, something else... or all of the above and more? Certainly happiness is one of humanity’s most important themes, and rightly so.

Happiness can be elusive, yet found every day on a grand scale or in the most mundane and routine. This month’s issue of Natural Awakenings Chicago magazine focuses in part on how, with daily mindfulness (and practice) we can shift to a more positive mindset in our choices and potentially find more happiness in the little details of everyday life. It’s a fitting topic for this point in time as we continue to migrate through the pandemic and adjust to new realities. Heading into a new school year that will undoubtedly be vastly different than two years ago, and teaching and coaching the next generation in lifestyle choices to lead a more positive, happier life is all the more important. In her article “Think Yourself Happy: Seven Ways to Change Your Mind and Be Happier,” Ronica O’Hara takes an in-depth look at some of the latest studies and research-based methods to help ourselves make choices to enhance happiness.

One of my favorite ways to find calm, peace and a sense of happiness is through daily connections with nature. While the nature connection is not news, it requires ongoing practice and can be difficult for many as we juggle jobs, family, daily life, access to natural areas and more. Yet many studies show that even a small amount of exposure to the natural world can affect the brain and calm anxiety and depression. Recently, researchers at the National University of Singapore used artificial intelligence and social media to analyze the effect of nature on positive memories and happy events. Their global study, published in 2020 in Scientific Reports, showed that social media photos tagged as #fun, #vacations and even #honeymoon were more likely to include photos of plants, water and landscapes when compared to images identified in posts as #daily and #routines.

As we continue to adapt to these unique times and take new approaches, it’s more critical than ever to purposely set a goal to include natural connections in our lives, create new habits and regularly share that connection with others. Be it through year-round outdoor exercise, creating a pollinator habitat in the garden, water sports, bird watching, walking from the Metra to your home, biking with the kids or whatever activities you enjoy (even viewing nature online or via TV shows), I encourage you to take that extra step, engage your senses and observe what is happening around you in the natural world as you participate in activities. Look for changes in plants, observe birds and animals in your yard or along the trail, note how the wind feels on your face, the color of the sky or phase of the moon... consciously reflecting on these things for the moments you experience them adds new dimensions to everyday living and can truly shift our emotions and bring things into a new perspective.

What makes you happy? How have you included nature in your life this past year? We’d love to hear what actions you take to increase happiness and positivity. Please drop us a note at [email protected] or via social media on Facebook @Natural Awakenings Chicago Magazine and on Instagram @NAChicago.

As always, I encourage you to step outside every day and enjoy the continual unfolding of the summer season this August. The present is now, and ours to choose to savor, find joyful moments in and express gratitude each and every day.

Happy August!