I’m usually suspicious of any method that promises to bring about instant happiness; happiness is an ephemeral feeling, so to chase it means you’ll likely spend forever trying to catch it. But, I’m all for things that can boost my mood and aid the feelings of contentment. Which is why I loved this take away from a recent study from Business Insider which found that focusing on certain little tasks kick-start our endorphins. Out of the lot, my favourite was that reading adventure novels makes you feel better about life. They detail a 2012 study from the University of Minnesota which found that the feeling of awe triggers less stress, less impatience and greater life satisfaction than those who didn’t read these stories.
For some of the participants, this feeling of awe was conjured up when they read a short, wonder-inspiring narrative. “Eliciting a feeling of awe, compared with a neutral state, increased perceived time availability, which in turn led participants to more strongly prefer experiential goods over material ones and to view their lives as more satisfying,” said the study academics.
When you think about it, the study findings make perfect sense. Reading stories of faraway adventures are a reminder that our world is not only meant to be explored but that there’s little stopping you from seeking one yourself should you so wish. And on that happy note, scroll for three of my favourite adventure reads, sure to lift you up if you have the Monday blues:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Novelist and hiker extraordinaire Cheryl Strayed embarked on an incredible 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States in 1995 as a journey of self-discovery following her mother’s death, and this had a profound effect on her life. Her experience formed the basis of a best-selling novel and film Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. While the film was a good effort, it doesn’t compare to Strayed’s writing which is raw, brilliant and emotive. She’s at a crossroads; distraught and looking to start again as she begins her redemptive trek, and by the end of it all, her life outlook has completely changed. It’s a gorgeous, riveting, and open-hearted read.
Under the Almond Tree by Laura McVeigh
The story is set on a moving train as 15-year-old Samar and her family flee the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1990s – they are refugees, nomads aboard the Trans-Siberian Express travelling towards Russia and a future full of uncertainty but a new adventure. Samar is our curious narrator (she longs to be a writer and is fascinated with Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), documenting their journey, the one she so longs to end; she is sick of always running and remembers fondly their brief time in Kabul – in the yellow house, playing under the almond tree – but soon discovers there are so many secrets in her life she does not know. It’s a beautiful novel made for inspiring a journey that you’ll be sorry to see end.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This comes on the back of much hype – highly recommended by both Oprah and Barack Obama – the story of Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, who manages to escape a hellish existence via an underground railroad (which was, in reality, a series of safe houses to act as an secret railroad in America). Her journey is long and harrowing as she seeks a life free from slavery. This isn’t always easy to digest; it’s dark and disturbing, yet so powerful is the message of hope that you simply won’t stop reading, if only to stay with Cora until the end of her life-changing journey.