MJ MARGGRAFF

You wouldn’t think when living on a planet teaming with over seven billion other people and 36 million acres of real estate that so many of us are plagued with aching loneliness. But it’s so.

The percentage of the U.S. feeling lonely on a regular or frequent basis runs from about 25-45% (1.) Chronic loneliness is bad for our emotional health and contributes to poor physical health. Despite living in a world filled with people and with plenty of places out there too, feeling alone in it can make the days seem long and shorten our lifespan. What can we do to rejuvenate the connection to life and recharge ourselves?

An example is riding above our heads. The International Space Station (ISS) cruises almost 250 miles above Earth and inside it works a crew of six who spend their days on experiments that provide new insights and products for life on Earth. Only the micro-gravity of space can supply the conditions that have helped to create breakthroughs for all humankind in the areas of cardiac, prosthetic, cancer treatment and others (2.) When lab projects are completed for the day, astronauts take a break and seek the refuge of the Cupola. It is a favorite place of a crew, who are limited in the number of real social connections and need time to reflect. The Cupola is not an intergalactic bar, it’s a small module attached to the ISS with windows to look down at the Earth below. From that place, encircled by infinity and stars, the view of a blue planet helps them feel better, think better, and restorative. The life of an astronaut can feel lonely from that distance. The earth offers awe and recovery.

ISS with Cupola attached to side facing Earth; about 250 miles overhead.

ISS with Cupola attached to side facing Earth; about 250 miles overhead.

Nature is a powerful tonic for our fatigue and isolation. Views to the outside by walking or just looking out a window elevate our mood and our outlook on the future. The wonders of nature: gazing out or being among trees, hills, and rivers does wonders. Stress is reduced and memory and attention improve.

It can be as near to you as a window.

Take some time to look outside. Let in the light and the awe. Take a walk and find personal connection. Find peace. Nature creates, restores, and gives us perspective as only nature can. The astronauts can gaze down and look upon the whole wide world.

All it really takes is a much smaller part of it to do the same:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.” Wm. Blake

Refresh your soul.

refresh

(1.)

capsule

Standing next to the training module of the Cupola and its seven windows to the world; Johnson Space Center ISS Training Facility, Houston, TX, October 13, 2016. (2.)

1. Chronic Loneliness Is a Modern-Day Epidemic, Fortune, by Laura Entis, June 22, 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/06/22/loneliness-is-a-modern-day-epidemic/
2. Innovations Aboard the ISS: Space Station’s innovations in research and technology, National Geographic, by Patrick J. Kiger, Feb. 13, 2014.
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/live-from-space/articles/innovation-and-the-iss/
3. The Psychology of Nature, Wired, by Jonah Lehrer, Aug. 19, 2008. https://www.wired.com/2010/08/the-psychology-of-nature/