Article: How Positive Emotions Improve Our Health | Greater Good

How Positive Emotions Improve Our Health | Greater Good.

 

Afternoon by the river

Afternoon by the river

 

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Finding my happy place

Mississippi River

When I hear the term ‘happy place’, I’m always curious what that means for people.  Throughout the years, I have explored different ideas of what this magical place would look like.  It would vary with certain images and experiences but nothing remained constant.   I struggled with the confines of establishing a physical location that only held feelings of happiness or peace.  I began to wonder if I would ever determine one place of existence as purely happy.

Then, this past week I had a perfect storm of stress, anxiety, and fear all rolled into one challenge after another. As I experienced intense uncertainty, anger, and frustration I wasn’t sure what to do or even how to cope.  There was nothing ‘to fix’, it was more about navigating overwhelming feelings and accepting the reality of the situation.  I knew in my heart that I would have to let go of the worry, the fear, and the frustration and try to find a place of peace.  Talking seemed to help a little, but I still needed to clear my head and lighten my heart, so I decided to go for a walk.

As I headed to the park by my house, still full of fear and worry, I realized that I was going towards the only place that could provide me peace.  The park.  It was my refuge.  I go there every week, almost every day to walk our dog or go for a run.  I couldn’t help but welcome the small sense of relief flooding my body as I realized that no matter what, when I am at this park, I feel that the world is an okay place.  There I am insulated from the chaos of the day, the ever-growing tasks lists, and any other expectations from the world.  There is a calm supported by the trees and the rolling hills that is hard to express through words or even pictures. There is a constant that only nature can provide.  The birds never fail to sing in the trees, the river doesn’t cease to continue rolling past, and the squirrels and wildlife promise to rustle in the woods every evening.  And sometimes, the universe will grace me with wonderful surprises in the form of a deer and her fawn running across the grassy area or even the rare site of a blue crane walking along the banks.

I walked for a while and then became absorbed in watching the river run past me and disappear around the bend.  Then, like water rolling off my shoulders, the burden in my heart became lighter.  I forgot about my fears for just those moments and breathed in deep and started releasing some of my tension.  I couldn’t help but be reminded that even in the midst of angry and hurtful people, scary situations, terminal illnesses, and more pain than is imaginable at times…there is also peace.  Walking along the river path and catching a glimpse of a blue crane doesn’t make all that heartache go away.  But it allowed me to catch my breath and simply remember that there is always something bigger than me.  Something more powerful.  I can choose to get caught up in the things that are big, powerful, and scary;  or I can choose to embrace the bigger/more powerful and peaceful things.

blue crane at park

I came home that evening feeling only a little lighter, but I had gained just enough of what I needed to get me through that evening and the next day.  And even more importantly, I realized that I can, without a doubt, finally claim my ultimate happy place.  It’s not the actual space of the park, it’s perspective that I gain through the park.   I believe our happy place resides within us at all times; sometimes we just need an external reminder of how to get there.  Maybe it’s a river walk, maybe it’s a meaningful conversation with a loved one, or maybe it’s just the stillness that is finally recognized in the heart.  No matter what, the space to feel peace is always there, it’s just up to each of us when we are ready to embrace it.  And in that space, deep within my soul where stillness lives…is my happy place.

My park

What is your connection?

Family of Elephants

What defines a connection? How do you know you have connected with someone or something and what does it feel like? And most importantly, how do you nurture these connections? Some people may define their connections in direct correlation with the number of friends they have on Facebook or how many followers they have on Twitter, but I am talking about something more; something deeper that is not captured or analyzed by social media sites.

Connections are meaningful experiences you have with someone or something that happens within yourself.  It’s when you think “this person totally gets me and is simply amazing”.  It is an interaction that leads you to want to spend more time with that person, get to know them, and share more experiences.  It is the feeling you have when you feel most comfortable in your own skin.  And when you don’t need words to fill a silent space. Connections happen when you feel like you are a part of something bigger than your immediate surroundings.  It’s a moment when you are standing on the edge of the ocean and you realize how small you are in comparison to the whole world.  It is when you witness nature in a pure sense and feel like there is purpose within you that speaks ever so softly.

Connections are not to be measured, they are to be experienced. They create a space in your soul that reminds you that you are loved and valued and a part of something much bigger than you can even imagine.  It is through real life interactions that connections grow.

If you do nothing else this week, find a way to nurture one of your treasured connections.  Step outside and gaze at the sunset or clouds in the sky.  Feel the breeze on your skin as you watch squirrels play in the yard.  Buy a card and write out a few lines of gratitude why a particular person is important to you.  Or better yet, send them a hand written note.  Have dinner with a good friend.  Remind yourself and the people in your life what really matters.

Of course, I enjoy using social media and other high-tech methods to stay in touch with loved ones.  However, I believe it’s critical to remember the importance of how we sustain our most treasured resources both within and outside of our self.  I’m sure there is an app somewhere that is designed in the spirit of ‘staying connected’, but nothing is as dependable as the internal programming of my heart and soul.  🙂