When I think back to the days of my depression I remember feeling helpless and heavy. It was a lethargic feeling and as I moved through the world, my emotions were anchors on my spirit. Depression gave me tunnel vision into a bleak place and I forgot that the world could be good and beautiful even when it seemed like it wasn’t. Each bout of depression that I faced had a different trigger, but each time I somehow found a way to overcome. Recently, as I face new challenges in life (like my anxiety), I’ve been reflecting on how I was able to escape those times, and I realized it was because I was able to discover and immerse myself into a happy place.
Finding a happy place can be life saving and life changing. Everyone’s happy place is different and we all can have more than one. Writing was my first happy place. It saved me from an endless string of upsets during my adolescence. Whenever my feelings were too strenuous, my pen and my journal helped me to relieve some of the burden. When depression grabbed hold of me again during my undergrad years, spoken word and my poetry collective became an additional happy place. Standing on stage and being brave enough to share my story helped me to be brave enough to reach for the joy I deserved but always felt unworthy of.
Now as a functioning adult, I’ve discovered a few new happy places and it’s not that surprising that one of them is my kitchen. Growing up, some of the fondest memories I created were with my mother in the kitchen. It didn’t matter what drama was going down in my family, my mother would always cook for the holidays and I would help her. I remember playing the Temptations and other Motown music while ripping collard greens and popping string beans for Thanksgiving dinner. The smell of sweet potatoes and mac and cheese always got my mood right. When I think back to the kitchen my main memory is of me smiling. And now that I’m older I’ve found that my kitchen is not only a place of happiness, but of clarity and discovery.
I try making new cuisines, I make others find joy when they taste my food, and I feel like an artist as I mix together colors in my pots and pans. I think my favorite part about cooking and baking is that when I’m doing it I can’t think about anything else except what’s right in front of me. I’m so focused on the spices, measurements, ingredients, how long the food has been in the oven and everything else that goes along with cooking, that I can’t think about my problems. It is a worry free zone. I turn on my music, sway my hips at my counter and focus on the aromas and how my stomach will feel when the dish is complete. I’m not worried about bills, or work, or my anxieties and depression, just the food that needs tending to.
A happy place is a space to get free and everyone needs one. It’s where you go to reset, forget, and heal. The best part about a happy place is that if you spend enough time there, overtime you’ll start to carry that happiness with you even when you move through the world.
All of the stability in my life has come from the realization that I am here to live fully, to discover new joys, to keep moving forward, and to rise to the best version of myself. I can only do that if I’m clear and I’m clear when I can exist in my happy spaces. So I blog and write, I cook and bake, I read and sip coffee on Sunday mornings and I continue to discover spaces in which I can exist with a smile on my face and a beat in my heart.
We all need a happy place and we need to visit our happy places frequently, because when we stay away too long that’s when the negativity in our lives gains power; that’s when we start to feel heavy and helpless. But the truth is that none of us are helpless. We can control which spaces we exist in and we can choose to do and surround ourselves with things that fill us with light. Depending on your situation, a happy place may not be enough to overcome your depression or anxiety, but trust me it helps. I still feel like I’m sinking sometimes, but my happy places allow me to float.
Where are your happy places and have you visited them lately?