The Happy Place
Most of us are familiar with the feeling that things are not as they should be and that we do not have the things we crave. A chronic dissatisfaction sets in that makes us look outwards with envy and inwards with disappointment. We are living in the most connected time in human history. And yet, an unprecedented number of us feel lonely and isolated. Social media reminds us of the need to have great experiences constantly, be conventionally attractive, have a lot of friends, find your soulmate, and that the others except for us have all of these things and are truly happy. We often tend to suffer our two most valuable gifts, our memory and imagination.
There are two forces that lie within us – the force of self- preservation and the force of expansion. Any direct strike on our belief system or values makes us crawl back into the mode of self-preservation almost instantly. Oftentimes, the walls of self-preservation also become the walls of self-imprisonment. There is another force within us that makes us feel the need to expand continually and keep moving from one goal to the next. It’s true that in a life that’s turning more grey with every passing day, happiness may feel transient and short-lived.
However, it need not be, as long as we have our ‘happy place’! Happiness is a universal emotion, yet, so differently perceived. Our ‘happy place’ is deeply personal and subjective. There are no criteria, no restrictions, and no boundaries to it. It could be anything – real or imaginary, simple or fantastical, indoors or outdoors. All we have to do is ask ourselves: Does it make us happy? If yes, then we are in our ‘happy place’.
It is a space we create within or outside of us when we are sad, uncomfortable or distressed. It could be a pleasant memory (when we went to SnowWorld for the first time), or an action (mother calling us down for dinner), or our favorite song (any Fleetwood Mac song ever). It could be with the people who we love and care for; the ones who help us stay grounded in a world that’s moving all too quickly. As psychiatrist Robert Waldinger says at the end of an 80 year old Study of Adult Development at Harvard, one of the most comprehensive studies of emotional well-being in history, ‘Good relationships keep us happier and healthier!’ Just as we grow and evolve our map of the world, our happy places also change over time into different spaces, different people or moments. The possibilities of what a happy place looks, sounds, feels and smells like are endless. It could be made of a mother’s sweet voice and the warmth of her hugs. A father’s kisses and the sound of him saying “I love you sweetheart.” Piggyback rides from a sibling and the sound of their laugh. The smell of someone’s favourite food cooked by their grandmothers. The memory of bantering during video calls and game nights with the same friends. The feeling of a dog’s wet nose pushing against hands or a cat weaving itself through legs, asking for petting. The memory of struggling to climb onto the tank on the terrace, to get the best view of the sunset. It could also be memories of watching childhood shows like Tom and Jerry and Powerpuff Girls. Or how someone felt reading their favourite novels, especially since the smell of novels is quite an aphrodisiac!
Tapping into our happy place has now become more relevant than ever in light of the new constraints that have entered into our lives. Right now, what we need most is comfort and clarity to get us through these turbulent times. Whatever and wherever it may be, our happy place gives us a sense of belonging and connection, not only with ourselves, but with everything around us. A happy place is more than just a go-to place for instant joy. Something about being there motivates us to introspect, learn and grow. In the hustle and bustle of life, this place allows us to take the time we need to heal from the anxieties that wear us down. Here, we can unwind, distress and rest till we’re recharged and revitalised to take on whatever comes our way.
Though we may wish to stay in this safe space where the difficulties of life can’t touch us, a happy place is only as happy as we make it. It doesn’t create happiness by itself. We do. Like all things in life, being mindful of our dependence on this space makes us self-reliant. We must comfort ourselves with the thoughts and memories of our loved ones, even devoid of their presence. This way, no matter where we are physically, our imagination will help us find alternatives and routes to overcome the challenges of life.
So, let us create that space in our mind where we feel our best! It could look like our childhood bedroom, our favourite vacation spot or any place that we imagine. Think of what it would sound like in there, hearing the birds chirping? Or maybe the sound of the ocean? Or even the sound of cars honking outside your window? Think of what you can smell there. Could it be the smell of mud during the rain? The whiff of petrol you get at a gas station? What about tastes? Maybe a pizza with all your favourite toppings? Or the drink you always order? Last but not least, what can we feel there? Maybe we feel our feet sinking into the earth and the tickling feeling of the blades of grass, warmed in the sun, brushing against your skin.
Our happy place is, as Taylor Swift would say, ‘ME!’, because when we learn to appreciate our strengths and push ourselves to grow, the possibilities are blissfully boundless.