I love the concept of a personal “happy place” — somewhere you can escape the stress and constraints of everyday life and feel completely at ease.
For some people, it may be a busy shopping mall. For others, it’s the serenity of a beach. Think of it as that place you go to be fully present with yourself, and you can savor the experience.
My happy place is a small pond on a golf course near my home. I make it a point to go by there nearly every day. I go running there; I go there to play with my children; I take my dog; sometimes I go just to be by myself. The sights and sounds of nature bring me back to my center — something that is very important to me.
Having an emotional connection with nature can help reduce mental ailments such as anxiety, anger, and aggressiveness — not to mention the physical benefits of being in nature, like increased activity and exposure to vitamin D.
Late professor of psychology Christopher Peterson wrote a book explaining that when we are acutely aware of the moments in our life that give us pleasure, we can extend these experiences to maximize the amount of pleasure we get from them. He describes happy places as easily accessible, neutral, and without penalty, always contributing to the meaning of our lives. These places outside of work and home are described by Ray Oldenburg as “third places.”
Not all happy places are outdoors, or even places you might think of as serene. Live Happy’s Shelley Levitt profiled a man who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a child and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. His happy place is the airport, because he feels that being there means that at any moment he could be traveling somewhere new.
Another example is a professional musician who finds her solace in a New York subway performing beautiful music for the masses. Though she’s played in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, she finds pleasure in the perpetual audience and perfect acoustics that she finds underground.
Finding our happy place can give us pleasure, the freedom to lose ourselves in the moment, time to build relationships with our loved ones, opportunities to find meaning, and a platform for achieving greatness.
The beauty of happiness is that it is subjective as well as a state mind. With the right perspective, your happy place will be easier to find. The next time you find yourself in your favorite place, take some time to savor the moments. Maybe write down the scene happening around you to remind yourself later what you enjoyed so much.
Here are some tips on finding your happy place:
- Recall places you’ve been where you appreciated the sounds.
- Summon the places where you’ve enjoyed the imagery.
- Choose a place where you can experience the elements that contribute to your happiness.
- Remember where you were when you experienced deep contentment and meaning.
- Stay open-minded.
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