When my husband and I moved to New York City last fall, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We were leaving behind a comfortable life in Arizona (one that included a moderately priced two-bedroom condo and a pool) and I had never lived away from my family. The longest I had been apart from my family was, maybe, four weeks. That was the scariest part.
We prepared as much as possible for the challenges of the big city: sky-high rent, tiny apartment, costly living expenses. For the first couple of months, we were so busy getting established that I didn’t even have time to think about how big of a move this actually was. But as our new life in Manhattan settled in, so did the feelings of being homesick.
New York City is an exciting place. It can also be completely overwhelming and lonely. A population of 8 million doesn’t mean much when all of the faces in the crowd are strangers and your best friends live 2,400 miles away. I was having fun, but there were still plenty of moments when all I wanted was a nap on my parents’ couch and a glimpse of the desert.
I’ve never been one for meditation (I can’t quiet my mind…ever), but one thing that helps me improve the down moments is going to my “happy place.” It varies depending on the situation and can be a figurative or psychical space.
When worries about bills and work keep me awake, I visualize a very specific scene from a vacation to Croatia I took years ago. I’m floating on a bright yellow raft in the Adriatic Sea with nothing above me but the blue sky. If I focus, I can feel the sun on my face.
When I’m missing my family just a little too much, I pull out our Christmas photo from a few seasons back. Not a single one of us is looking at the camera. We’re all too busy laughing because our German Shepherd decided to lick my brother’s hand just as the photo was being taken. Looking at this photo brings my family to mind and makes me feel closer to them.
When I’m feeling anxious, frustrated or altogether uninspired during the workday, I do one of three things: 1) turn the music up loud and dance like an idiot 2) head to Central Park for some people-watching and to smell the trees or 3) go for a run along the East River. The open space helps me breath a little easier and I’m reminded of how small Manhattan really is on the grander scale of the world.
It sounds menial, but these small practices help me to regain focus and balance my mood. In fact, finding a mental and physical sanctuary can have a major impact on your wellbeing. Going to your “happy place” can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, help you stay calm in stressful environments, and much more.
So how do you get to your “happy place?” Trying following these tips:
- Acknowledge negative thoughts. Instead of focusing on negative thoughts or trying to talk yourself down, recognize that they are normal and then tune them out. (Easier said than done, I know.)
- Focus on the moment. Negative thoughts have a way of creeping up when we let our minds wander. Living in the “now” will remind you how beautiful life really is.
- Find something to laugh about or someone to laugh with. Wacky photos (like my family’s Christmas portrait), a movie, coffee with a friend, a good book. Laughing releases endorphins.
- Get out and spread some love. Acts of generosity will raise your happiness level.
- Sit quietly with your eyes closed and take deep breaths. Imagine the happiest and freest place you’ve ever been. Is it a beach resort? Your grandmother’s kitchen?
- Do something that makes you happy. Spend time with your husband, wife or partner. Get out and exercise. Call your best friend. Refocus your energy into pure positivity.