Monday Musings….The “Happy Place” for Introverts

The weather has been incredible lately – very atypical for mid-February in south-Western Ontario! There’s something about how warm, sunny days make you feel when you are expecting it to be dark, dreary and cold. This kind of weather just seems to lift your mood and lighten the burdens you carry.

I was at a conference a while back where the speaker invited all of the participants to close their eyes and think of their ‘happy place’. Now before I can continue, I have to be honest that I’ve never found much benefit personally from visualization. If it works for you when you are overwhelmed – fantastic – but for me, I find it very distracting, so I was less than enthusiastic to participate in this exercise. So instead of picturing it in my mind, I simply closed my mind off, making it blank, and then I filled it with thoughts. I asked myself: what am I doing or where am I when I am the happiest? This was easy – I’m driving in my car, on the open road with no destination, listening to great music. So I was quite content in that thought. But then the presenter asked us, while keeping our eyes closed, to name out loud who was with us in our happy place. I instantly stopped thinking, opened my eyes, and felt like I had completely failed the exercise. I hadn’t been thinking of anyone. I was by myself. She went on for the next 10 minutes about the value and purpose of those people that come to mind when we visualize. As I glanced around the auditorium, everyone in the seminar seemed to be lapping up her wisdom. I began to think that there must be something wrong with me.

I don’t discount the value of having people in our lives who can improve our mental health, I mean it is what I do for a living after all, but what about those of us who are more solitary creatures? Is there something wrong with us is we prefer to be alone? Our culture often assumes that solitude is equated with loneliness. This is definitely a misperception.

I think the essence of the teaching on the’ happy place’ is to have individuals define a space where they are most content, feel most fulfilled, and most alive. For some, that is in the company of good friends with great conversation, enjoying an activity that lifts their mood and lightens the burdens of life that weigh them down. But we can’t assume that those wired as extroverts have found the holy grail of happiness. Nor can we promote this personality type as the panacea for poor mental health. In my opinion, the ‘happy place’ has little to do with who, or what, or even where. It has everything to do with why – why does that image or thought improve your mood?

For me, driving down the open road, in my car listening to music by myself, evokes a sense of freedom. I can belt the lyrics and rock out with no fear of embarrassment. There are no deadlines, no time constraints, no specific destinations that have to be reached. It fuels my curiosity as I discover new sights and sounds unexpectedly along the journey. And when I get lost, or I’m desperately close to running out of fuel with no gas station in sight, then it feeds my need to go out of my comfort zone and trouble shoot the problem. This is my why. What is yours?

When you think of your ‘happy place’, why does it make you happy? There is no pass or fail here. This is unique to you. It fits with how you are wired and it also meets the needs you have that will keep you energized and optimistic.

The weather is nice again today! Will you share the day with someone or prefer to be on your own? There is no single prescription for happiness. My wish for you today is that you discover your why and pursue it!

The song I have chosen for this blog is one of Ed Sheeran’s newest releases, Castle on the Hill. It’s his reflection on his ‘happy place’ which definitely involves his friends from his youth. I like the beat of this song and relate to parts of the chorus. And if you’ve seen the video, as an adult he is driving down the country road going 90 by himself ;)

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