6 steps to finding your “happy place”
Sometimes, people joke about going to their “happy place,” by which they usually mean imagining being in a pleasant place.
All joking aside, this strategy, which some call “visualization” or “meditation,” can be very effective in increasing relaxation and reducing anxiety and stress. The idea is that if we think of a relaxing place and we reconnect with all of our sensory memories attached to this place, we will become relaxed.
This can take some practice, just like building any skill, but, if you stick with it, you will have a great coping skill.
Here are steps for an effective visualization:
- Start by going to a place that is quiet and where you will not be disturbed for 15 minutes or so.
- Get in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you like.
- Take some deep, slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.
- Think of someplace you have been (or imagined, or seen in a movie) that is very pleasant, calm, soothing.
- Reconnect with all of your sensory memories attached to this place. What do you see? Hear? Feel (touch)? Smell? Taste? The more detailed you can be, the more real it will seem. For example, if you are at the beach, what color is the water? Are the waves gently lapping the shore, or are they big, rolling waves? Is there a rhythm to the sound of the waves? What is the temperature? What do you smell? Maybe salty ocean air or tropical scents. What do you taste?
- Keep taking slow, deep breaths.
If your mind drifts away from your happy place, just tell yourself you are going back for a few more minutes. Keep pen and paper nearby so you can write down any distracting thoughts you might need to remember when you return from your happy place.
You also may use some sensory aids. This isn’t necessary but may be helpful. Using the beach example, you might turn on a fan to simulate a light breeze. You might listen to the sound of ocean waves (easily found online these days.) You might use some candles, lotion or oils that are ocean- or tropical-scented. You might even get some sand to touch.
Once you become skilled at visualization, you can relax just by recalling your happy place!
About the Author
Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health in Normal, Ill. She has helped her clients through a variety of issues for more than 20 years.