Oh, the elusive Happy Place. Sometimes used as an emotional retreat from trauma, sometimes as a mental break from outside stressors, and sometimes as a physical location where one can tune off the outside world. Creating and cultivating a Happy Place for yourself, both mentally and physically, can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental well-being, but it can be hard to know where to start in finding yours. The Happy Place can be a useful retreat from stressors large and small. From stressful family gatherings to tough times recovering from a mental illness to dealing with distractions at work, a Happy Place can be a much needed time out from those things that you can’t change.
There are two distinctive kinds of Happy Places: mental and physical. We’ll start with mental, since your physical place should help you get into that mindset, too.
Finding Your Mental Happy Place
- Think about what makes you happy. While that might seem like a pretty obvious step, “happy” is a really abstract concept which can be hard to examine. To figure out what makes you happy, ask yourself some of the following questions: If you had one hour of uninterrupted time and could snap your fingers and be where you wanted, what would you do? Where? When? With someone or by yourself? What if you had a whole day? A whole month? What would make you the most serene, the most carefree, the most relaxed? The answers to these questions might change depending on where you are at any given time. If you’re at work, you might be happiest if you were at home cuddling with your partner or baby or pet. If you’re at home with a whiny baby or pet (or partner), you might want to be on a beach far far away from them. Once you have a pretty vivid mental image of your happy place (at least one of them), you’re ready to take it to step two.
- Examine your happy place. Close your eyes and bring up that mental image of your happy place. Make it as real as possible. Focus on the details to bring them to life. For example, if your happy place is a beach, think about what you feel when you’re sitting on that beach. Think about the color of the sky (is it dawn? It is sunset? Is it a cloudless day?), of the water, the smell of the fresh air and the taste of the salt water breaking off the waves. Think about what your body would be feeling: the sun against your face; the cool, damp sand you’re sitting on; the feel of it between your toes; the breeze floating over you. The more real you can make your happy place seem, the better step three will be.
- Examine yourself in your happy place. How do you feel in your happy place? Calm? Pulled together? Confident? Unhurried? Unrestrained? Comfortable? Feeling that can only be felt and there’s not a word to really apply to them? Hold onto those feelings and bring them back into reality with you. When you need to get to your happy place, those are the feelings that you’re going to draw from to get you back to there.
- Accessing your happy place. When you need to have a little “me” time in your happy place, find somewhere quiet you can go. If there’s nowhere truly quiet, grab your mp3 player and headphones and put on the most relaxing music in your collection. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, I highly recommend the free Binaural Beats app. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes (or however long you can steal away for) and think about how you felt in your happy place. Visualize your happy place again, focusing on how you feel and seeing all those details that you ingrained into your mind before. At the end, you should feel relaxed and refreshed and able to go back and face your frustrations without wanting to flip out on someone.
Making Your Physical Happy Place
So, we know what our Happy Place feels like now. How do we carve out a little notch to make it easier for us to connect with our Happy Place when needed?
- Space. Space is going to be the number one limitation for most people. While it would be amazing to be able to build a library or a meditation room or a luxury spa bathroom that becomes your solitary happy place, it’s just not practical, let alone remotely possible for most people (although, if it is possible for you, can you adopt me, please?). Figure out how much space you have and work from there. Even with something as small as a corner of a bedroom, you can create a calming reading nook with a comfy chair, mp3 dock, small table for books and a glass of wine, and some soft lighting. A ordinary tub can turn into a spa experience with a tray of candles kept under the sink, a bath pillow, a couple of bubble bars from LUSH or Flowering Tree Botanicals, and some portable speakers. A porch with a couple of chairs can become a great place for a cup of tea and some fresh air.
- Away from home. Sometimes, you may not need a full-fledged meditation session to take you to your happy place. You just want a quick glimpse at something that will make you smile. If you work at a desk job, having fun accessories on your desk is a great way to get an instant jolt to your happy place. Made By Joel’s Tiny Paper Paris is a lot of fun (and a great conversation starter). Humorous desk accessories (available plenty of places, but ThinkGeek is one of my favorites) bring some fun to your day, too. Even something as simple as bringing in a Lego, shell, rock, picture, or other tiny memento of a loved one can give you a much needed jolt to your happy place.
- On the Interwebs. Sometimes, the same old stuff you look at all day just won’t do. You need something new to give you a quick burst of happiness. A happiness chaser when life gets you down. Cute animals are always a safe bet, including Cute Overload, Cute Things Falling Asleep, and the always adorable ZooBorns. For some introspectiveness on happiness and positive thoughts, The Happiness Project, Tiny Buddha, and Positive Notes are great sources of inspiration. If you like playing a mental Anywhere But Here, MapCrunch takes you to a random GoogleMaps location. And, last, but not least, there’s always Pinterest for everything else dreamy, droolworthy, and escapist.
This Week’s Challenge
Find your Happy Place. Either a mental one or a physical one (or both, if you’re so inclined). If you need some Happy Place inspiration, check out this Flickr Gallery I curated full of different views of Happy Places. Feel free to share in the comments if you’re comfortable… you may inspire others.
This Week’s Mantra
A simple one this week. Find a happy place.
If you want a reminder of your mantra for the next week, feel free to click the image above to download the full size version suitable for desktop wallpapers, printing, or framing.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or mental health expert, and there are problems that positivity cannot overcome, so please do not take this advice in lieu of a doctor’s care.
Not all challenges will be relevant to everyone, so I welcome you to come and go as you please and take from each challenge what works for you! Please make sure to share your thoughts in the comments!