If you have a severe allergy you probably carry an EpiPen or antihistamines in your bag.
If you are going on a long car trip you make sure that you first pump up your spare tyre, pack your jumper leads and a bottle of water before you leave.
When you go on a hiking trip you pack your supplies – including trail mix, biltong, and water.
You look forward to the much-anticipated experience but you also prepare for potential bumps in the literal and proverbial road.
Preparing your heart and mind for the bumps in your life
Thinking and feeling states, like many aspects of our lives (including immunity, energy, hunger, and sex drive) fluctuate over time. A certain amount of flux is both normal and healthy.
Why should we not treat our emotional states with the same care and foresight as we do allergies, road trips, and hiking expeditions?
Why should you not prepare for bumps in your experience of happiness and emotional comfort?
After a long day or week, a traumatic experience, or when you are feeling under the weather physically – why not be prepared to look after yourself rather than waiting for the moment to hit you and then only buy supplies?
We wouldn’t not prepare in other areas of our lives. In fact, we would consider a lack of planning to be irresponsible.
A care-package to your future self: The Happiness First Aid Kit
I would like to share with you the idea of a Happiness or Mental Health First Aid Kit.
This is like a care package that you put together for yourself while you are feeling well.
You may choose to keep this kit in storage but not too far out of reach for the times when you need it.
Like Linus’s blanket in Peanuts, the kit contains tangible objects that you can literally hold onto when feeling “out of sorts” (be it sad, stressed, flu-ish, or just plain “meh”).
In psychological terms, we refer to objects like Linus’s blanket as a transitional object.
A transitional object represents the mother or valued care-giver to a young child when they are separated from the care-giver.
And what does this mean to you as an adult?
As adults, there is still a place for the transitional object – and the Happiness First Aid Kit is one such transitional object or collection of these objects.
The kit also represents a link to the nurturing part of yourself that is invested in looking after you.
When we are not feeling our best, we often lose contact with that part of ourselves.
What should I put in my kit?
Here are some questions to consider, when deciding what to place in your kit.
- What makes me happy?
- What is a comforting (relatively healthy) treat?
- What would I want a loved one or partner to buy me when I am feeling down or ill?
- What could I include that would appeal to all my senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell)?
- Is there any comforting object from childhood that I might want to include (a toy, baby blanket, illustrated storybook etc)?
9 basic items you might want to add to your kit
ONE: A letter to yourself
You know yourself best. What is the specific difficult thinking or feeling state are you preparing for?
What is it that you feel during a state like this and what do you forget about yourself, the world around you, and the future when you feel trapped in this state?
What is it that you realise when you have previously emerged from this state and wish you had been able to tell yourself when immersed in that uncomfortable space?
Now write an encouraging and caring message to yourself for the next time you enter into this state.
This may not irradicate all the difficult feelings or thoughts but offer support, reassurance and comfort while weathering the anticipated stormy state.
TWO: A movie from childhood
Is it a Disney, Dreamworks or other classic you associate with pleasant memories?
What would you like to either watch or play softly in the background when you are not feeling your best?
Perhaps it is a romantic comedy, musical, sitcom or even a nature documentary (One tends to see your life from a different perspective when watching nature documentaries. Especially when these shows include clips of the earth from space or images of large tracks of land that make your immediate environment appear minuscule in comparison).
THREE: A playlist
Is there a list of songs that bring a smile to your face and a warm feeling to your body?
Why not save them on an Itunes, Soundcloud, or Youtube playlist for yourself?
You could also download them to a memory stick or CD, and pop them in your box for when you need them.
Think of these tracks as your heart’s cheerleaders when you need them most.
FOUR: Sweet treats
Now this is a tricky one. Carbohydrates and glucose are not healthy in excess.
Some would argue that you should do your best to completely eliminate them from your diet.
If you are able to enjoy treats (even savoury ones) and gain comfort from them – in a way that does not disadvantage you or your diet – why not add a few to your box?
Tip: Lindt sells tasty dark chocolate slabs with natural flavours in them.
FIVE: A collection of photographs of cherished moments
We all have certain photographs or digital snaps that mean the world to us.
Add a couple of them to your box.
Tip: Earn extra brownie points for placing your photos in a small photo album or creating a photo book out of them.
SIX: A short motivational book or article
We all have our favourite motivational speeches, articles, or short books.
You may even want to consider saving the titles or links of your favourite talks or podcasts, and accessing them when you need to.
SEVEN: Over-the-counter medication
Do you have a favourite cold and flu medication, allergy medication, or pain and fever remedy that you find works best when you are struggling with the conditions which these medications are intended for?
It may feel that medication belongs in a traditional first aid kit and medicine cabinet but if you know that a specific medication brings you physical relief go ahead and add it to your self-care kit.
Another good reason to add the medication to your kit is if you always tend to run out of that helpful medication before you desperately need it.
EIGHT: Bath or shower-time treats
You may want to consider adding your favourite bubble bath, bath fizz, oils, and candles.
Perhaps you are a fan of salt baths. Add a pack of Himalayan salt crystals!
Tip: Be as creative as you like here. Some people enjoy giving themselves facials at home, as well as manicures and pedicures. I am sure you can fit the necessary products into your box too!
NINE: A magazine, a bear, and a balloon
These are typical hospital-visit-gifts. But maybe you want to buy a magazine (that won’t date too quickly) and pop that in your kit until the rainy day that you need it.
In this blog post I have shared with you ideas on what to add to your Happiness First Aid Kit.
This kit is something that you prepare for yourself and have ready for when you hit a bump either emotionally or physically, or both!
It is like a stand-in for a caring parent and or the nurturing part of yourself that is hard to access when you are down in the dumps or feeling physically ill.
Have you got any items that you would add to your Happiness First Aid Kit? Please share them in the comments section below. I am always keen for readers to join the conversation.