I have never been to Africa. Yet, I like to imagine being there: I picture myself on a safari in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa or Tanzania. I dream of watching elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos, wild dogs, wildebeests and zebras go about their daily work in green deltas, on red-sand deserts, upon endless plains and scattered across wide-open savannas.
After the year we’ve all had to endure—with the pandemic lockdowns and shelter-in-place regulations—my imaginative powers have only grown. I’m sure you’ve become an expert at envisioning future travels, as well; especially to those places you’ve always wanted to visit but have put off going to for one reason or another. I’m also positive that your resolve to see those places—once you feel safe traveling again—has only increased alongside your ever-expanding capacity for daydreams.
And, luckily for you, researchers are now telling us that acting on that determinedness could give you even more enjoyment; a heightened sense of happiness.
Novel places and neuroplasticity
According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, new and diverse experiences are linked to enhanced happiness, and this relationship is associated with increased brain activity. The results of this research reveal a previously unknown connection between our daily physical environments and our sense of well-being. In short, people feel happier when they go to novel places and do a wider array of things.
That may be why I like the video titled South Africa in 4K, shown below, so much. For me, not only is Africa a “novel place”—as it may be for many of you, too—this is not the typical safari film fare. It contrasts the cities of South Africa with its wilder spots; it emphasizes the country’s constellation of landscapes. Unlike the usual safari short, it’s more as if you’re taking a road trip. In Africa.
Within the film, you’ll see scenes of people and places. City folks and ocean surfers. Birds and beaches. Precipices and parks. Rainy weather and reflective walks. Power being generating by wind and waterfalls. Wine and waves.
But don’t get me wrong. Throughout this approximately five-minute journey, there’s plenty of wildlife, too: a cheetah, elephants, giraffes, impalas, a kudu, a lion, penguins, seals, wildebeests and zebras.
I have never been to Africa, but I hope to see some of it one day. And when I do, I know my brain will do backflips and handstands, and my smile will stretch wide across my face.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,