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Do you have a happy place?

One of my yoga friends asked the rest of us over for dinner the other night where our "happy place" was. Having been in therapy before, I knew the term, but it was new to others around the table.

(Joel Page/Associated Press)

Your "happy place," as its woo-woo name suggests, is the place you picture in your mind when you need to find an calm oasis in the midst of the chaos of life. When everything's going wrong, or when you just need a minute to slow your racing mind, you travel to that place and conjure its sensory details, trying to trick your head into thinking you're really there.

If all has gone well, I'm at my actual, real-life happy place as you read this blog, which I wrote on the eve of my annual shoreline vacation. With any luck, I'm sitting on a beach chair under a big canvas umbrella, smelling the salt air and watching my kids romp in the surf. What happier place could there be?

But the trick is to hang on to that happiness, transport it back to the place you live the rest of the year. Don't we all know that sinking feeling when we recognize our vacation high is ebbing? At least I know I've recharged my own happy place, so next time I need to go there in my mind, its details will be vivid.

Do you have a happy place? Where is it, and how do you use it? Or do you think happy places are just a bunch of hooey?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Psychology , Yoga  
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I think using real experiences as "happy places" cheapens the actual memory.

I also find that the places and times when I'm most content aren't beaches or any of the other spots most teachers and psychologists try to use. I'm happier in cities. I'm happier at a dinner party with friends, but places like that can't be used in the way.

Posted by: Fabrisse | August 19, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I think the idea of a "happy place" can backfire. As a child, I used to walk, by myself, through a beech-wood every day on the way to school. I loved it. I was always happy there, even when it was raining. But if I visualize that wood, or a single beech tree and its surroundings, an ambivalence arises: a faint echo of the old feeling, but also a pang of regret that I can't get there from here.

Posted by: penkuhn | August 19, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Gee, I took the meaning of "happy place" very differently. I go to mine every day. It is not in my mind but in my chair in the living room where I'm surrounded by books.

Posted by: jcusick | August 19, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Well one person's "happy place" isn't the same as another's. It could be anywhere, any time. No need for some to be judgmental of others' choices. I kind of drift to a hazy, remote Tahitian beach scene, with sun, blue sky, a light breeze, fantastic ocean scenery and surf, but it isn't a place I have been before, but a place I'd love to go to someday.

Posted by: Sooska | August 19, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm claustrophobic, and I only need a happy place when it's triggered. If I'm in a crowded elevator (if I have to be in one, but usually I take the stairs) I put my hand over my eyes and think of a beautiful, spacious meadow. Blue skies, slight breeze, and LOTS of room.

Posted by: eacmpbll | August 19, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I meditate and my happy place is part of it sometimes. Mine is a place I've never been, it's a stream in the woods, with lots of rocks to sit on and watch the water go by. I use it most often when I'm at the dentist (root canal gone bad) or any time that breathing isn't the best approach. I focus on that place, it helps my mind focus while they work.

Posted by: fernva | August 19, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Attending a health fair about 15 years ago, I participated in a biofeedback study. While hooked up to blood pressure and heart rate monitors, I was asked to think of a stress inducing situation, then to think of my "happy place." As I thought about running late, while being stuck in traffic, my heart rate and bp both increased....thinking about snuggling in my bed with my purring kitty cat made my heart rate and bp fall to levels lower than my normal resting rate. Proof, positive!

Posted by: SlumberPartiesByKolby | August 19, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

A happy place can be a place plus a person or pet -- whether a regular place you actually go to unwind at the end of the day, or a memory or rarely visited spot. For example, reading a book as my husband works away at his computer in the same room, our cat winding through with news of the day. Location plus activity plus loved ones adds up to a happy place.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter1 | August 23, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

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