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Of All Places, I’ve Found My Happy Place on YouTube

By Jon Ziegler

Playing adult is rough. A job that never quits demanding, kids who never stop needing attention, the car is acting funny, money never seems to last the way you plan. I don’t need to go on. You all know what I’m talking about. We all find ourselves in that place where we need an escape. Sometimes, even fifteen minutes of being able to get away or shut down the brain can reset our outlook on life.

Popular forms of this type of escape are meditation or yoga, and, for some, a brutal workout does wonders to clear the mind. I have had limited success with these. Inside my mind there is a constant, sometimes chaotic stream of activity. For someone who loves to create, this never-ending parade of thought and random ideas, which has spawned many of my stories and works of art, can have value. But when it’s time to focus on one thing, or just shut down all together, my mind becomes the enemy.

The limited time I’ve spent in meditation felt like an endless effort to empty my mind of thought, frantically stomping out the barrage of popcorn thoughts that pop into my mind. It can almost be a taxing experience in itself. I suspect if I dedicated myself to learning more about meditation and different techniques, I would have more success, but I never think of dedicating time to it until I am already in need of an escape. I have not tried yoga, and a workout, although beneficial, is just not relaxing to me.

I have found something that does work for my escape – my fifteen minute happy place. It’s YouTube.

That sounds ridiculous. YouTube is a place where you go to watch grown men light farts on fire, catch up on the latest conspiracy theories, or watch a teenager, locked in their room, singing Ariana Grande songs into a hairbrush handle. What could be all that relaxing about YouTube?

A year or so ago, I clicked on a link to video footage of a drone being flown over Scientology’s Gold Base in California. Now before you roll your eyes and stop reading, I am not a Scientologist and this article has absolutely nothing to do with Scientology. I had clicked the link out of curiosity, wanting to sneak a peek into a mysterious world I knew nothing about. The location of the drone footage drew me in and was indeed fascinating, but what caught my attention more was the peaceful music and the lofty flight around the Gold Base grounds. It was relaxing.

A few days later, I found myself with a scarce few minutes between conference calls on a particularly hectic day at work. I needed a minute of non-work. I remembered the drone video and brought it up on my screen and put my headphones on. This time the fact that it was footage made flying over a Scientology compound was irrelevant, I just wanted to leave my desk and fly around for a few minutes…and it worked. For the length of the video, I wasn’t in my cubicle, I wasn’t thinking about the previous or coming conference call. I was soaring. I had found my fifteen minute happy place.

My theory is that if you have a very active and at times unruly brain, trying to shut it down completely is not the easiest answer. I find relaxation much easier and faster if I just slow down what my brain is taking in, and let it center on benign, peaceful subject matter. The drone-view flight and music did just that. I began searching out more videos and perfecting my happy place. I found I wasn’t the only one doing this. A few days roaming around YouTube uncovered many such drone videos. Then, I found YouTube channels dedicated to relaxation videos of drone flight and other forms of video happy places.

But before I list some of my favorite videos and channels, I want to talk a little about some relaxation video “best practices” that I’ve learned on my fifteen minute journeys.

Subject Matter. The idea is to use the video as an escape portal, a de-stresser, so obviously choosing the right video is of utmost importance. I love being outdoors, far away from humans. This would be my first choice as my means to escape the rat race, but as you already know, it’s rarely feasible. So instead, I find videos with footage of mountains, wilderness and seaside cliffs that are far away from my office or home. Mountains, trees and the ocean don’t care about my boss, money, politics or Facebook – they don’t even care about me. They are just there for me to admire. Admiring them takes little effort and is easy to focus on. They are perfect.

My favorite videos of the world outside my office tend to have no people in them or maybe very limited glimpses. I’m really a people-person, but when I’m on an escape, seeing people reminds me of people, and people are often part of my stress. I like to feel like it’s just me and the mountains, far away from humanity.

Music. The music is an important part of the trip. Allowing the mind to drift between the breathtaking video and the calming music provides just enough stimulation to make it easy for my mind to avoid chasing down any random thought rabbit trails.

The style of music must be chosen carefully. I’ve found that music with no words works the best. Words of any kind generate thoughts. Just hearing the words takes up brain function to identify and put together into understandable ideas that the lyricist is trying to convey. They are a distraction. Fast paced music, heavy, or too upbeat music can also be a distraction. I don’t want music that evokes strong emotion, positive or negative. New age and classical work the best for me, even though these are not the styles of music I would choose when driving, partying, or in project mode.

Many of the relaxation videos have very well chosen music already in them, but not all, and the stupid YouTube ads can give an unwanted jolt back to the real world. I’ve started pulling up Pandora’s Instrumental Chill to pipe through my headphones while watching the videos muted. The two almost always seem perfectly scored together.

Putting yourself in the video.In order for this form of relaxation and escape to work, I need to insert myself into the video. To just hit play, and passively wait to see what happens isn’t enough. I always switch to “full screen” mode to eliminate the surrounding YouTube clutter and distracting Internetty stuff. I move close enough so that the screen dominates my field of vision. I imagine myself being there, smelling the pines, feeling the cold air or sun on my face. I can hear the wind and waves, even with the music playing in my headphones. I try to capture that sense of awe and wonder that I would experience if I were actually there. The HD video makes this easy to attain.

The Videos. So, now that I’ve covered what I consider to be my list of dos and don’ts, I’ll share with you some of my favorite videos and channels that a year of following this pursuit has brought me. I mentioned my first escape video was of drone footage. I tend to favor the drone videos if they are done well. I guess I’ve always wanted to have the ability to fly, and I love seeing things from this heightened perspective. There is no shortage of drone footage to explore.

As I’ve said, my favorites are of places far from traffic, voices and digital anything. I can soar high over the steep green hills of Scotland, fly like a bird through Yosemite or feel the sting of the cold Alaska air. A drone in Hawaii not only produces breathtaking video, but might also earn me points with the owner of Sweatpants & Coffee. (Editor’s note: Only if it brings me back some macadamia nuts. Just kidding! – Nanea)

Can’t decide where you want to go? Try a compilation.

Maybe you aren’t the type to find relaxation in the wilderness with the grizzly bears and mosquitos. Perhaps your inner peace comes from rising above the din of the streets of your own city of New York, Los Angeles or Minneapolis. You don’t even have to stay here in the U.S. Take a flight over Dubai or China. Wanna go big? How about a full Earth orbit?

I find beauty in all things abandoned. Some might find dilapidated buildings depressing, but to me, abandonment is the well-earned retirement of a building that served its purpose well, and is now left to live out its days in quiet solitude. The video of Geauga Lake makes me reflect on all the fun it had provided for so many years and so many people. A ghost shipyard in New Jersey seems a fitting final resting place for tired ships of a million ocean miles. Get an unprecedented view of the Pyramids of Giza. Even remnants of the Chernobyl disaster fill me with awe.

Maybe the idea of relaxation videos has peaked your curiosity, but drone footage isn’t your thing. Some people can’t watch them due to a fear of heights. There are other videos that might fit your style of escape such as hike through the woods, or a drive through the Redwood forests. Or if you need an even less stimulating form of brain shutdown, there are even static relaxation videos such as this waterfall.

It’s not hard to come quickly come up with your own list of favorites. There are YouTube channels dedicated solely to relaxation videos such as 4K Relaxation channel and Nature Relaxation Films. These channels, and other like them, offer a variety of videos to call your happy place, and some of them go up to twelve hours of playtime for more extended journeys.

Everyone needs an escape from adultiness, and no one method will work for everyone. I’m just glad that after years of looking, I found mine, and, of all places, I found it on YouTube.

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