Everyone needs a haven for self-care and that looks different for each individual. We often yearn to find an oasis of calm or joy in the midst of our busy and/or stressful lives in order to find a sense of personal wellness. This can be a much-needed space in our workplaces and in our educational institutions, a special place in our community, or in our home. This space for wellness, wellbeing and happiness would hopefully be housed anywhere there are a variety of competing agendas, various responsibilities we, (or others around us,) carry. “Stress” can add to the load we are already carrying. In times like these, I think it’s important to have places and resources, (real and/or virtual,) for wellness, mindfulness and resilience building – multiple choices of resources in your home, workplace, schools, places of gathering for community, worship and other areas. These resources can help you to get back in touch with calm and joy and happiness and gratitude, mindfulness and flow and positivity. Again, these look different for all of us.
As the well-known aphorism goes, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” My family and friends know that one of the ways I deal with this personally is that I create gatherings, events, parties and , small or large, on the themes of joy, happiness, connection, crafting, by creating joyfestivalindustries.com! I am a bit of a “better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” type of person. Some readers also know that I’ve created something called Happiness Rooms. These have been in libraries and civic institutions, private events, healthcare settings, religious organizations and I sometimes consult with people on “how to build a Happiness Room” within their own organization or help them with kits or tutorials to build their own.
Over the years, I’ve attended many interesting lectures and classes on faith based positive thinking concepts (thank you to Nomi Freeman, Chaya Hinda Allen, Rachel Shaool and others,) because I’ve found these give me new skills for wellness. More recently, because of this longstanding interest, I’ve also been taking classes and workshops from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley that teach about the science of happiness, the foundations of happiness at work and mindfulness and resilience to stress at work. In Happiness Rooms that I’ve worked and helped to create/co-create, it’s evident that it’s often not enough to have these tools in your mind only, you need to use them and practice them. Regularly.
By practicing happiness, I mean, exercising the muscles of what it is that helps you stay well, healthfully happy and feeling more even-keeled, resilient and calm in the face of loss, grief, stress, etc. My personal feeling is that with the news of the world, the hecticness of daily life, the sometimes very real and stressful life-cycle or health related challenges, we really could use more Happiness Rooms in the world, however those look for each person’s culture and interests. A happier person, workforce or student body makes for more calm and evidence shows that it leads to a more productive workplace (and students do better,) as well. (Greater Good Magazine: How Happy are People at Work?) In a famous quote by the Baal Shem Tov, he said, “Wherever your thoughts are, there you are.” So, we have to be careful what we think and what thoughts we choose to believe!
You may have heard of schools and universities setting up spaces for students to have a place to breathe, do mindful movement, stretch, meditate, pray or just be calm, in the midst of school stresses or anxieties. Some universities call these Breathing Rooms and label them as wellness spaces for students. Because we are easily distracted and pulled in different directions by our individual and group tasks in life, it may be hard to practice the concepts of self-care that we know can be useful to our overall wellbeing in our places of community, work and larger spheres.
If I ask you quickly to check in with yourself, do a body scan and think “what is the state of my mind right now,” how often do you state you feel happy or calm? And then, if you don’t, can you quickly name one or two things you can easily do to access those more healthy states in your mind? If not, brainstorm a little bit what helps you to be more attuned to a healthier natural state. It could be painting, drawing, hiking or taking 3 deep breaths and sipping your tea or coffee slowly and more mindfully. Could you, if you don’t already have, make a space for this mini-mini Happiness Room somewhere?
Making a Happiness Room!
So, what’s a Happiness Room and how could you possibly build even a small one or benefit from one? A Happiness Room could be as big or as small as you choose to make it, with the budget you as an individual or an organization have. What it really is is a space for you to have a variety of resources, tools, and items that appeal to a variety of senses (think smell, touch, sound, digital or analog type resources, etc.) that speak to the themes you’re trying to get your participants to engage with. Participants could be yourself or those you wish to create this for in your organization. The traditional themes used when first creating Happiness Rooms were: happiness, joy, positivity, calm, gratitude, flow and meditation. These seven themes are broad enough that you can usually engage people with some aspect of them.
If you create a menu of great videos on these topics or calming music on a laptop and attach headsets, that could be a resource. Books, DVD’s, a small sand garden or mini running fountain in a quiet area could be another one. Simple, low tech ways to do sensory exhibits include things like mason jars with a variety of calming spices or scents in them (think vanilla or orange peels or cinnamon,) or a bin full of sand or rice for people to run their fingers through. Whatever resources you can think of in your home space, office space or other space that help people get a bit more “centered,” to decompress a little, all the better. Playing with soft fabrics, textures of natural materials, or doing something calming may also work. Feel free to send me an email if you want some more specific ideas on this!
The main goal of all of this is that wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone had a happier life, a little more joy in their days and workplace, in their hearts and homes, with whatever they are dealing with.
I wrote earlier this month about how as living people, we all have stress…and how, hopefully it’s good stress. Being kinder, living more mindfully, practicing faith and living with more trust and less fear are all muscles we need to exercise regularly or they will atrophy the same way disuse of our physical muscles can atrophy.
And with happiness, it helps to have regular tools, DIY hacks and other things around to help you get in the mood, mind place and ready to up your own joy or simple daily living happiness quotient.
Visitors to your Happiness Room will discover audible, visual, tangible/tactile and unique ways to find their happiness, calm, joy, positivity, gratitude, meditation; all with the goal of raising their own “happiness quotient” in a workplace, community or home setting. A Happiness Room concept (link to kit) is a way to take the great resources available (through your local public library or bookstore or even materials you have at home or the office already,) and pair them with a desire to make the world a happier place. When I began visualizing the idea of a place that people could go to find “happiness-inducing-ideas,” and ways to interact with these ideas and concepts.
Pop-Up Happiness Rooms have been real “hits.” People came back and brought their friends, their family members, larger groups of friends and recommended it to others. They have spoken of the program at their cancer support groups, at the Alzheimer’s Association caregiver meetings, their places of worship, their Mommy and me groups and they’ve since been replicated in many other types of organizations. You can make them as big or small, as low or larger budget as you wish. They are great for classroom with tips and tools for helping students and educators have better, happier, more productive and less stressful encounters with each other and in the world.
Envision putting together resources to think about what brings you or others happiness or raises your own “inner joy or happiness quotient” and then start building a happiness room of sorts. It could start in a corner of your home or apartment, if that’s your preference, it could look like a small crafting corner and place for sitting and mindfully sipping your tea and rocking in a rocking chair or meditating, praying, quietly reading. It could be a small room at the office that has space for some larger interactive happiness room “exhibits,” wall art, and/or other materials mentioned above. Safe and healthy choices for reducing home or workplace angst or stress might include resources on mindfulness, calming techniques, guided visualization tracks to listen to, etc.
When you think about what makes you happy and what sensory type things call to you when you need a special haven for self-care or an oasis of space in a hectic day, you will know some of the resources to add to the space of your Happiness Room. Then brainstorm out what you think others might want and ask friends, colleagues and other people to join in the planning. Visitors to your personal or organizational Happiness Room will discover audible, visual, tangible/tactile and unique ways to find their happiness, calm, joy, positivity, gratitude, flow and meditation; all with the goal of raising their own “happiness quotient” in a workplace, community or home setting.
And that, my friends, will have positive reverberations for all who take part! Email [email protected] to let us know your thoughts on building a Happiness Room…in your home, heart, workspace, company or organization. We’d love to hear from you.
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