The Romeo Project quest for happiness has so far led me to explore my authentic self and turn self care into a daily habit.
But I also want to find my Happy Place, and what better time to discover where that is than in a month dedicated to treating myself?
But what on earth is a Happy Place?
“Our natural state is to be happy” –says Michael James in ‘Happiness and the Art of Being’. But I disagree. For me, being happy is something I've had to work on. Would I have to dedicate a whole 10 month self-improvement programme to happiness if it came to me naturally?
As anyone with a mental illness knows, your illness means that you often aren’t close to being in your natural state, yet alone happy. I found it hard to experience any feelings whatsoever in the grips of depression, succumbing to emptiness and numbness.
Instead, I believe that our natural state is neutral; somewhere in between happiness and sadness. Life events and our own mindset determine whether we verge up the scale towards happiness or down to sadness.
I have to take steps, conscious efforts, to help me move up the scale to happiness. Whether it's my anti-depressants that lift me back into a neutral state, or my blog that helps me work through the hard times by writing about them, happiness is an endeavor for me. But if I find my Happy Place, I wonder if maybe finding happiness will be easier for me?
Well, the Oxford Dictionary defines a Happy Place as this:
“a place which a person associates with happiness, visualized as a means of reducing stress, calming down, etc.; (hence) a happy use of mind.”
The term was first used in the 1990s, and has since come to be associated with mindfulness, meditation and recovery. It's a place to retreat to, to find solace and comfort.
But how do we get to our Happy Place?
Think about where you feel most calm and at peace. Is it a certain location you have visited before? Is it a certain time in your life? Is it somewhere you've never been, but have always wanted to go? Is it somewhere you're not even entirely sure is real? It doesn't matter. According to internet lore, aka WikiHow, your Happy Place should not have any restrictions. It can be your back garden, the Shire, or a beach in Lanzarote.
For me, one place immediately jumps out.
By the sea...
The sound of crashing waves
The smell of sea salt
The spray of the waves
Gliding along on a boat
It's somewhere that feels natural and safe and yet magnificently powerful. It reminds me that there is beauty all around. It reminds me that I cannot always win against the force of the world and that's okay. I think about standing facing the sea and I automatically feel a sense of calm.
But how can I bring my Happy Place into everyday?
I don't live by the sea. It's not a location I can just go to every time I'm feeling down. And in part, that's why I like it so much. It's a novelty, it's somewhere I go on a journey to see.
But how can I create a Happy Place in the here and now?
Well, if you're drawn to the sea like I am there are multiple YouTube playlists where you can listen to the sounds of the sea. (See here). Many sites suggest visualizing you are there, hearing the noises, smelling the scents, feeling the sense of calm that makes it your Happy Place.
But I'm not good at those exercises. 'Imagining' is not my strong suit. I find they take a lot more effort and time than I tend to have at the end of the day.
So I started thinking about where else I feel a similar sense of calm. It's not quite the same as gazing out into the sea, but I've created a safe space in my room to escape the world and find some sense of happiness.
Chilling on my bed - covered in two fox blankets and a fox cushion, or course - with good book or an episode of one of y favourite shows, a cup of tea and a scented candle lit. It's a little bit of paradise.
It's simple. But some days it is all I need. And it bridges the gap until I can return to the look out at the ocean.
Where is your Happy Place?