Saturday in the Park

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It’s Day 16 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x31 Challenge and today your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find your happy place and spend some time there.

You may even opt to spend more than the 5-15 minutes on this one since surely it will spark joy. (See Day 15 for more on that.)

There was a study into drug addiction done in the late 1970’s by Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander known as the Rat Park study* that has come up enough times in conversations lately to make me want to check into it further and share it with you.

I did some research and found a fabulous TED talk by Johann Hari called “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”. In Hari’s talk, he references the Rat Park study in which Alexander hypothesized that it wasn’t the addictive property of a drug that causes addiction so much as the living conditions that contribute to the struggle.

In a nutshell, given the choice between living in an isolated cage (or otherwise intolerable situation) with unlimited access to drugs or living in a rat “park” with interesting scenery, healthy food, lots of toys, enough space for mating, and equal access to unlimited drugs,  rats who lived in the park choose to avoid the drugs despite their assumed addiction.

This theory was also used to explain how some Vietnam vets who had done a lot of heroin during the war were not addicted or continued to use drugs once they returned home. Or it may explain how you can have a hip replaced and be given a steady stream of morphine while you are in the hospital but not need to head to rehab before you head home.

What does all this have to do with you spending Saturday in the park?

The implication for us is that when we can find our park, our happy spot, our place of personal power and purpose, we don’t need to depend nearly as much on all the those things we may be slightly addicted to – be it Pokemon, shopping, gambling, smoking, sex-drugs-rock’n’roll, sports, social media – to do it for us.

We are wired for connection and meaning. As Hari so eloquently describes it, addiction to the drug of choice may seem like the only answer for those who can’t “bear to be present in their own lives”.

If you can be present for your own life with all the intricate and intimate connections and activities that give your life meaning as well as break your heart, you will most likely choose to do what supports and sustain that, rather than destroy it.

That’s why today I’m inviting you to spend this Saturday in the park, even if you can only go there in your mind. My hope is that you never lose sight of what matters to you and why. Take trips to your “park” any day of the week, so you seldom lose your way.

Feel free to share your happy spot memories or photos in the comments below.

 

 

Today’s photo was taken at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.  It’s one of my favorite parks to walk and spend time in when I visit my nieces there.

*Click here to see how Stuart McMillen has brilliantly illustrated the details of the Rat Study  in comic strip form. You can also see how this artist is using crowd sourcing to support his passion. I love it!

2 thoughts on “Saturday in the Park

  1. Ann Hardy says:

    Well, that picture is not Iowa!! Looks like New Orleans to me, maybe near or in Audubon Park…….

    When I retired I lost your email address for Stress for Success, could not remember how to spell your last name, looked for you online and today I found a disc with some of your old stuff that led me to this site. Glad to have your good common sense available again. I was looking for your good stress material….stress seems to be all around…..

    • pjplautz says:

      Hi Ann – So glad to have you back! The park in the picture is Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia. My nieces go to school there and I get to visit them when I can. Sadly, the stress material is as relevant now as it ever was – maybe more so. But I keep writing about ways to stay well in spite of it. Thanks for taking the time to find me again. Hope you doing well.

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