In a recent article I posted, a clinical psychologist shared his recommendation to clients who call him in moments of significant distress. He suggests that they take a 30-60 minute walk outside and try to focus on what they observe in nature on moment to moment basis. He tells his clients to call back if their distress level is still high after the walk, but reports that he has rarely received a second call after 20 years in practice. Not surprisingly, the walk and the focus on their present moment experience in nature, gives his clients emotional space and an opportunity to “pause” their internal stories that so often elevate levels of emotional suffering.
I’ll take this one step further. It’s important to find your “happy place” – that place where you feel your body and mind shift into an entirely different gear, and where you feel at peace and connected to your present moment experience almost effortlessly. While a mindfulness practice often includes formal practices such as meditation, equally important in cultivating greater mindfulness and achieving a more peaceful existence, is paying attention to experiences, places, and people that nourish us and incorporating these into our lives as often as possible. Finding your happy place is the perfect starting point.
My happy place is a quiet bay beach where I like to walk in the morning hours while the sun is still low in the sky and I can hear the gentle lapping of the water upon the shore. When I arrive there, my body immediately relaxes and I feel an extraordinary sense of peace and connection to myself and to the world. Sometimes I close my eyes, sit, and meditate. Other time I walk along the beach, using all of my senses to connect to my present moment experience. I experience profound and quiet joy here.
I cannot be there as often as I would ideally like but I’ve learned that I can take this place and the effects of it with me. While I’m there I try to fully capture the experience of being there so that I can bring that experience to me when I am away. I also bring part of the beach with me by collecting shells that catch my attention. Often, just picking up the shell and feeling its texture brings the same feelings of peace that I experience when I am at the beach.
Consider whether you have such a place and how you feel when you are there. This might be a place in nature – a park, lake, hiking trail, waterfall, beach area or even a spot in your backyard. It might even be somewhere in your home, perhaps a room that is your special place. Try to be there often, and when you are there, be as present with the experience as you can be, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, and noticing how your body feels. For times when you cannot be there, think about whether there is something that you can bring with you that will help you to experience your happy place.
For those of you who do not have such a place, consider finding one to call your own. Think back to times when you have felt most at peace with yourself and perhaps revisit that place or some place like it to see what effect it will have on you.
We spend so much of our days bombarded by distracting and often disturbing stimuli. Having a quiet place of peace to experience stillness is nourishing and can often bring you quietly back to yourself. It can also provide an opportunity for you to pause, breathe, and give yourself space from your internal stories so that you can reduce suffering and achieve greater balance.