“The world is too much with us,” the poet William Wordsworth wrote. We’ve all been there: overwhelmed by never-ending to-do lists, overflowing inboxes, the demands of work and home life, the friends we adore and the organizations we support. When we feel chaos is closing in, we need to retreat to our happy place.
“Everyone should have a place where you can go to feel safe and happy,” says Nancy Mramor, Ph.D., a Pittsburgh psychologist who leads workshops on achieving happiness. “It may be a place you can physically visit or, at times, even just imagine, but it must be a respite that recharges you.”
Here are some tips for finding that special place in the world:
1. Recall places where you’ve appreciated the sounds
Birds chirping, a brook babbling, beautiful music, people’s voices.
2. Summon up the places where you’ve enjoyed visual images
An open view of the sky or sea, pleasing colors and shapes, inspiring art or architecture.
3. Choose a place where you can experience the elements that contribute to happiness
Exercise, social contact with happy people, creative flow, laughter. Your happy place, says Nancy, may also be a “low-stimulation environment with little of the above. Quiet stillness can offer a feeling of being at peace that can last for a long time.”
4. Remember where you were when you experienced deep contentment and meaning
It could be the playground where you took your children when they were young; the animal shelter or food pantry where you volunteer; the café where you met your future spouse.
5. Stay open-minded
Studies in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show that spending just 20 minutes in nature boosts vitality levels significantly. Others may prefer a favorite spa, an indoor Zen retreat with candles and soothing music or a kitchenware store filled with gleaming pots and exotic ingredients.
“Some people, especially those who work alone,” Nancy says, “get a happiness lift just by going to their local coffee bar and plugging in their laptops.”
In another article we explore the concept of the “happy place“—a space where you can find joy and meaning in a chaotic world. Here we explain how to identify your own happy place, in case you haven’t done so already!
Shelley Levitt is a freelance journalist based in Southern California.