What was your physiological response when your eyes first landed on this picture? What happened in your body? What did you feel?
How about this one?
I served as a combat anesthetist in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Casualties from blasts, bullets, burns and other horrendous circumstances to soldier, civilian, children and the elderly came in night and day making it probably one of the most stressful environments imaginable. Happy wasn’t a word most of us used very often.
I was fortunate that early in my deployment to Afghanistan one of the nurses introduced me to the concept of making myself a portable happy place, something I could pull out of my pocket and even if I only had a minute to glance at it, it would flood my body with a general sense of happiness and peace.
The science behind finding and using your happy place to help you with your pressured and over stressed life is the topic of The Happiness Track by researcher and author Dr. Emma Seppälä. Dr. Seppälä is the Science Director for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University and has studied the effects of happiness/calm and resilience versus unhappiness/stress for over a decade. I will cover Dr. Seppälä’s work in a future blog through email interviews. For now, one of her many important findings is that it is possible to find a moment of peace even in the midst of chaos from ringing cellphones, buzzing texts and chiming tweets all while making dinner after a full days work and keeping track of several tired or restless children. Taking that time will actually make you happier and more productive.
For me, in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was a postcard someone sent me with a large brilliant orange poppy and a full black center. The poppy is now enshrined on the bulletin board in my office, but the theory lives on in the easy access of my cellphone photos along with several other happy places that have joined it.
What will your happy place be?