Person of the Week

Mish Morgenstern

Founder of Happier Outside: Making the world a happier place by inspiring people to get outdoors

When we spend quality time outside regularly, we are happier. We feel more connected to our own bodies and minds, to the environment, to our own spirituality, and to our communities. All of this leads to greater and deeper happiness.

1. What led you to the mission of being the founder of Happier Outside?

I founded Happier Outside because I firmly believe that when we spend quality time outside regularly, we are happier. w-MaineThere is mounting research to support that time spent outside reduces stress, increases focus and attentiveness in children, and reconnects people with each other. We feel more connected to our own bodies and minds, to the environment, to our own spirituality, and to our communities. All of this leads to greater and deeper happiness.

The years I have spent working in the outdoors with adults and children have taught me that people CRAVE opportunities to get outside more. We all have our own personal barriers to creating an outdoor habit – for some it’s time, or location, or inspiration. My goal is to inspire people at all levels to get outside more: a daily step-out-onto-the-porch… a hiking trip… playing with kids in a fun way… finding outdoor options in a new city… whatever it is, I want to make it EASY for people to step outside and find their joy.

w-Mish-Morgenstern-BeachWhat led me to found Happier Outside was when I spent time working in the outdoors with adults and children. I found that the greatest barrier to getting outside is not having the tools or motivation to do so.

For some people it is that they forget that it is beautiful outside and that they can take the time to go outside. For others not going outside is based around a lot of fear. So I decided to start a forum where people could connect with each other and get content and information that they might want, desire, or need to get outside regularly – not just as a summer trip, but also on a daily basis. The idea is to incorporate being outdoors in your daily practice.

I try to motivate people through stories and ideas to get people to just step outside their door. This might take them outside of their comfort zone a bit.   For some people it might be getting outside for a daily walk. For others it might be scaling Mount Everest. There is really a broad spectrum.

What happened for me is that I used to be a program director for an environmental educational program both here in the United States and Australia where I am from. w-rockWhat I constantly found was people coming into these programs and telling me, “I wish I could do this more often.” They had this amazing experience and were hankering for more. Yet, it was hard for them to do that. What I thought at first was that contact through the out of doors could be inspired through a video or through photography, or through some other interactive media. When Facebook became a force, I realized that this is something that people look at and that this would be a way to inspire people. This is also true of other social media networks such as Twitter and Instagram. Social media has become a real force for positive change within people. The work that I did showed me the need and the social media showed me the vehicle to meet this need.

2. What does this mission mean to you?

On a personal level, I struggle every day with getting outside. I have kids. w-Mish-MorgensternI work full time. I don’t get outside personally as much as I might like. On a spiritual level, being the founder of Happier Outside is focusing me on what I love and is giving me a lot of joy.

I desire an impact on my community. I desire making the world a better place.   Being the founder of Happier Outside gives me an opportunity to do both of these things. I love to be on the cutting edge of something, so in that way it is fun to be inspired by the organization. I have people who are helping me do this. They are giving me their content and we are all working towards something bigger.

3. What was your best day as the founder of Happier Outside?

Some of the days that are amazing are when I gather the content, write words, take pictures, and am in that beautiful state of flow. w-Mish-Morgenstern-oceanThis is when I feel connected to something that is greater than myself. I feel like it is something that I am doing that is going to influence the world positively. It is when I go hiking. I’m taking boat rides. I’m sitting at my computer and doing the website. It is the feeling, “We’re getting there. We’re making it.” It is a real, fantastic feeling of being in the state of flow.

People are spreading the word with each other. I have received messages that this is working with people and they are spreading the word to others and trying to get others to contribute to my idea. That feels very affirming and exciting. I know that this concept is very intuitively right for so many people. When it works for me is not when I am just pushing and saying, “Hey, look at this.” It is when other people catch on and have excitement about it too. It isn’t one day or one particular situation. It is that state of being that feels the best for me.

4. What was your worst day as the founder of Happier Outside?

On the flip side is being in the state of flow and having to make the fifteenth version of the website. w-Maine-2There is some darkness in there and that is hard for me. This is when I am doing something that is not necessarily my skill set or interest. My interest is in education and being part of something inspiring – not necessarily the day-to-day, “Oh my, how am I going to make this web design perfect?” That is hard for me.

One thing that is hard for me or the worst thing – that has light and dark to it – is that I have so many ideas on how this can be relevant and roll out. Sometimes it is hard to just put one foot in front of the other and make it happen at a pace that I can keep up. Like I have an app in my head that I want to develop. I don’t have the tools yet to do that. I have an idea on how I can connect communities around the world. But again the website has to come first. It just takes time and I get a little impatient.

5. How did you survive your worst day?

I’m older and have been around the block a couple of times. w-backpackI have faith – although I’m not really religious. I do have a faith that there is something greater than I am as a part of all this. I just trust. It is fine to be excited and keen.

What I have learned is that the good ideas stick. Your may have fifteen ideas and three of them will stick around. If you wait and allow for those ideas to percolate naturally, that will show you the things that will stick. If one idea doesn’t fit or timing is not quite right, those things will become apparent. I just let an idea have its own life.

6. What advice do you have for someone who would like to follow your work as founder of Happier Outside?

If I were a young person just leaving high school and wanted to be outside more, I would start by simply stepping outside. Just at the very minimum step outside. w-artistFind ways. If you are an artist, instead of sitting in your studio and painting from a picture, step outside and do your art outside.

If you are an athlete and spend a lot of time in the gym, try running outside a few times a week. Whatever it is that drives you, incorporating an outdoors experience into that will bring you joy and happiness. It just will.

For some people, they will read this and think, “Oh my gosh, I want to lead trips. I want to be an outdoor guide.” That is fantastic. There are so many ways to be outside. There are a million ways to be outside no matter where you live.

If you live in the city and you want to be outside and a part of the community, you can go to the local school and find out how you can be cleared to help out there. You can then take the kids out and help them start a local vegetable garden. You can go out and have them count ants in the pavement. It is really that simple. You break it down and say, “I want to be outside more in the environment that I am in right now.”

I am looking to create a Happier Outside community. If people want support and want to develop a Happier Outside club or support group they can contact me. I can be emailed at [email protected] You can also go to the Happier Outside Facebook page:

 (Richard Louv has been an inspiration for Mish.  To read about his work, click here.)