During the past few weeks as I’ve worked through a bout of depression, I’ve been learning ways to manage and uplift my mood. I’ve discovered that I wake up feeling fairly cheerful, but crash around , so it helps to have something fun planned or someplace happy to go around then. And while I have several “happy places,” for me there’s almost no place happier than the barn where I keep my horse. It’s a few minutes from my house, but it might as well be 100 miles away from all my cares.
Why do I love it so much? Aside from the obvious (my dream horse Tank lives there), it’s quiet and peaceful. There are lots of animals, both domestic and wild, and I have good friends there. The barn also holds great memories of accomplishment and fun times. When I first started lessons there, I knew nothing about the care of horses or how to ride. Little by little, I’ve learned everything from how to properly groom a horse, to how to jump small jumps.
When I’m at the barn, I’m not surrounded by competing things I “should” be doing. I don’t need to choose between working on an essay and making dinner, reading a book or folding laundry. I’m doing both what needs to be done and what I want to do. While I stand in a cloud of dust and hair as I brush Tank, I’m also looking for cuts, swellings, abrasions, bug bites or the start of any skin or hoof issues. I “need” to groom him—and I love doing it (while not for everyone, grooming a horse is one of my favorite simple pleasures). He loves it too, especially since he gets pieces of carrot as I work my way around his body.
Once I walk through the gate, I don’t hear the voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough—I hear turkeys gobbling, the snort, squeal or blow of a horse, chickens clucking. I don’t smell the trash that needs to be emptied—I smell fresh air, hay and the warm scent of horse. I don’t see all the chores I have left to do, I see pricked ears, a gleaming coat, and the eager expression of an animal waiting for me.
When I’m ready to leave, I’m filthy, often sweaty and fatigued, but my mind is still. If I’ve been mulling over a problem, I often know the next step to take. If I felt a little icky physically, I’ve probably forgotten all about it. Things have settled and shifted, and I’m at peace and, at least for now, happy.
What about you? Where is your “happy place”?