This morning I awoke in my Happy Place. It felt like the world was right. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I wasn’t overwhelmed by any anxiety. I didn’t have a sense of doom. I wasn’t worried.
When we want to have good mental health it is important to have a measuring point. It is important to identify how we feel when things are going well. My Happy Place, for me, is my measuring mark. It is the place I try to be most consistently in my life. I try not to fall too far below this mark and when I do, I make an effort to get back there.
In order to repeatedly experience my Happy Place I find I have to know what good things happened to make me feel this way? What did I do differently?
Some of the things that contribute to my Happy Place are a good diet, time spent outdoors, and being in the presence of family and friends.
Things that rob me of my sense of well-being are injustice in the world, family conflicts and the threat of losing what is precious to me.
In the same way that I identify what happened to make me feel peaceful and joyful, I also need to figure out what happens that makes me lose my sense of well-being.
I find it helpful to write down whatever I can think of that impacted my emotions in a negative way. Then I put a box around it.
When I write things down, I can see clearly what I have to watch out for. I have a limited amount of time and energy and I cannot allow these things to absorb a disproportional share. In other words, I need to be careful about how much time and energy I spend interacting with them. I am the one who has the most control over how these particular disturbances impact me.
On this list of stressors are some things I can do something about, and other things over which I have little or no influence. Because I am a praying woman, I commit to God the things I cannot change. And then I pray for wisdom and guidance regarding the things I can change.
Maintaining a peaceful life feels good, but it is also necessary for our health. Anxiety and worry and distress cause all sorts of difficulties in our bodies such as high blood pressure, stomach ulcers and even reduced immunity. Stress can also cause people to resort to unhealthy and addictive behaviors and this is another reason why it is good to identify our stressors and learn to manage them.
When I write down the troubling things in my life, I am giving them a name and creating a bit of distance between me and them, enough to take an objective look at them.
This is one of the ways I organize my life. When our lives feel stressed it is often because we feel out of control. Our lives become chaotic. Chaos makes us uneasy. We naturally want to be in control of our lives.
When we see our stressors in front of us in this way, life becomes more predictable. A more predictable life gives us a greater sense of control. A greater sense of control leads to greater peace of mind.
Blocking, or burying things, by refusing to think about them, means that they can pop up unexpectedly and throw our lives into disorder or chaos. That is the reason why I like to be aware of what is going on inside me, particularly the things disturbing me. I like to identify and corral the enemy in this box.
At the other end of the page that contains the box with the things in it that are stressors, I draw another box that represents the good feelings I have when I am happy with my life. It includes the things that contribute to these good feelings. In this way I can keep track of what gives me a sense of well-being.
You may need to wait and watch for your Happy Place to happen–that place where you have a general feeling of well-being. Once you recognize the exact feelings you have, you can begin to try and prolong this good feeling. Make it last an hour, a day. Try and make it happen more frequently.
I draw third box between the box of stressors on the left, and my happiness box on the right, and in it I write action steps I will take. These are the things I believe I can do to make my life better and to stay on track. Sometimes I can’t do much, but I can do a little. Doing a little, now and then, starts to add up over time.
One of the keys for me to be in my Happy Place has been to find out exactly what the “little things” are that I can do well. Not what others expect me to do. Not even my expectations of myself, because I will often put far too much on myself. But just those small things that I feel a gentle nudge to do, things that are a good fit for me in terms of my character and ability.
Years ago I read a book about the difference between faith and presumption. I realized that I had presumed a lot of things were my responsibility when they were not. Faith gives us only as much responsibility as we are meant to carry. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we find the yoke that is tailor-made made for us then our burden becomes much lighter and easier. The truth is that as long as we are in this life we will have burdens to bear, but they don’t have to crush us.
Peace is probably the word that best describes what I feel when I am in my Happy Place. I have found that I need to pursue peace. Things will always happen to disrupt my peace and then I have to begin my journey back by recognizing the place I want to be, acknowledging the things that are hindering me, and committing to doing what I can do to make a difference.