We all need a place we can go to in our minds for comfort and to feel calm. My relaxation theory is that if we visit that place in our heads, we’ll feel better. Some people imagine an ocean beach, with calm waves returning to the shore and warm breezes blowing in their hair and the smell of salt in the air. Some people contemplate their family home where they grew up, maybe their childhood bedroom. For some, that is their happy place. I’ve always had luck with imagining myself out in the woods in a rustic environment with no one around for many miles surrounded by trees of all kinds their leaves dripping in cool water.
Where did I first get this wooded vision, this quiet and wonderful utopia in my mind’s eye? Well, when I was 23, I went to Norway to study at The University of Oslo. I became friends with a sweet guy named Arthur, who took me to his family cabin. The place was primitive, but beautiful; it was without electricity and running water. We had to light candles to see in the night. There was a loft, where Arthur and I slept, and his sister and her husband slept downstairs. We ate fresh shrimp and drank wine and relieved ourselves in a nearby wooden outhouse. The cabin was built on a little lake in the mountains. In the morning, we bathed in the freezing cold water.
This place, this quiet, clean spot became my happy place to which I mentally travelled when I needed to unwind. All through graduate school, when I became stressed, I’d “go” to this place, and it would relax me. Then, when I got my first job, I used this vision to relieve tension. I remembered the cabin in Norway for stress relief around the time I married and we adopted our child.
This went on for decades until the vision lost its power, its efficacy.
Then, for many years, I didn’t have a “happy” place to escape to. Luckily, I found other ways to handle the difficulties of life (and they came in a prescription bottle.)
Well, I’m glad to say that I’ve found another happy place.
Last weekend, my husband, son and I went camping in a pine cabin in southern Ohio.
In a word, the place was perfect. There was not a soul around for miles. We had privacy; we had clean, fresh air; we had the pitch black of night, and we had each other.
The weather was cool, as it had been in Norway. And it was rainy and “drippy.” The leaves shone in cold water that plopped down on us when we least expected it.
We warmed ourselves with a fire and covered up with homemade granny quilts. Both nights we were there, I made fresh salmon in the little stove. We gorged on fresh fruit — grapes and apples.
But this cabin did have modern conveniences — electricity, a full, modern bathroom and running water. It even had a hot tub. We loved to sit in the hot water and have the cold mist of the afternoon circle around our heads.
Oh my God, it was paradise.
And now I have a new place I can go to in my mind’s eye when life gets rough. I’ve already gone to this place mentally several times this past week. And let me tell you, the visualization works.
If you’ve never tried it, try it. Imagine a place where you felt completely at ease and happy, where all tension melted away.
If you can’t imagine a place such as this, perhaps, you have to take yourself to a haven where these wonderful things can happen.
Perhaps, you need a vacation.
It doesn’t have to be a two-week luxury experience. Sometimes the short weekend getaways pack the biggest punch because they’re concentrated experiences.
At this point in my life, I’m realizing that I respond to nature, to the woods.
If you haven’t taken advantage of being in nature lately, do it. You’ll get the benefit of truly enjoying yourself while you’re there and the benefit of being able to go there in your mind’s eye for many years into the future.
Nature; it’s a wonderful thing.