We are still in the thick of ‘improvement season’ when, post Christmas indulgence, comes that traditional time to refine ourselves: a meat-free month, swapping wine for kefir, and reluctantly leaving the sofa for an evening run.
This year though, when we’ve been deprived of so many of the things which bring us pleasure I simply couldn’t face depriving myself of anything else (and especially not chocolate!) I was keen to do something positive though, so embraced a month-long photo challenge to produce an image every day according to a theme, and share it with a small bunch of friends online. The first theme of floral was easy enough, as was ‘bright’ and ‘something beautiful’ but when it came to ‘my happy place’ I was stumped. Not because I couldn’t think of any - on the contrary, I am thankful to have a plethora of places that feel joyous. A Welsh beach with my kids and our friends. Sitting in my parents' garden. Afternoon tea with my bestie. Walking in woodland, a bath on a summer’s morning, snuggled on the sofa with the kids and a great film. Sunshine on a snowy mountain top. And here, in the midst of another lockdown, these places seemed more precious than ever.
I loved seeing the photos my friends shared, of beaches, sunsets, gardens, football stadiums, cosy homes, and awe inspiring views but just couldn’t decide on my own. I considered what unites all of the places that make my heart sing; beauty, being with people I love, feeling peaceful. I researched what ‘happiness’ means - a pleasant feeling of contentment or satisfaction. Martin Seligman, proponent of positive psychology, developed the PERMA model of happiness, or wellbeing, embracing Positive emotions, being Engaged or completely absorbed in activities (what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow) and being authentically connected to others through Relationships. Meaning and Achievement complete the theory. Finally, I thought about what has caused me consistent unhappiness - years of anxiety-provoking, self-limiting fear, and the pleasure and confidence that has come from finally ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.
Suddenly it was obvious which photo I’d choose from my camera roll, for happiness is not in any one place or another, and especially at the moment when Covid and lockdowns have physically separated us from many of our preferred destinations. No, happiness is inside ME. And in you. It flows from the thoughts in our heads and the feelings in our hearts. Buddhists believe "authentic happiness is achieved when a person can perceive the true nature of reality, unmodified by the mental constructs we superimpose upon it - cultivating a healthy state of mind that underlies and suffuses all emotional states and that embraces all the joys and sorrows that come one's way" (Ricard, 2014). So, my ‘happy place’ is me, and the photo is a reminder to myself that while there is much to feel sorrowful about, we can all create our own happiness by choosing the thoughts and beliefs we pay attention to.
Claire Robertson, Ollie Coach
Claire Robertson is an Ollie Coach and NLP practitioner with a degree in psychology. She runs a private practice in the West Midlands, in the heart of Shropshire, working with children, young people and adults. Claire is also a university lecturer specialising in business, marketing and supporting students, has two children, and enjoys reading, crafts and walking.
To get in contact with Claire, email Claire.email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us