If you know me even a little bit, it is no secret at all that I am obsessed with Walt Disney and Disneyland. I am okay with this love affair and here’s why: I didn’t discover the magic of Disneyland until I was 15 years old. I was raised by forest ranger grandparents and ocean-obsessed parents and my childhood was made of hikes, annual passes to Yosemite, and summers spent learning to identify pine trees by the smell of their bark. So when I stepped foot in Disneyland as a high schooler, an entire new world opened up to me. Something completely magical occurred and I have never been the same. I was not healthy at that age. My life was a mess and I was a mess and Disney just did something incredible for me. Over the years, the park has become my comfort and my safe haven. The wonders that having someplace like that can do for one’s life are incomparable. I’m not trying to convert any reader to the dark side here, I’m trying to explain why finding your own Disneyland and investing in it is not only acceptable; but wonderful, healthy, and worth it. Particularly if you’re in high demanding positions of service or leadership….
- Finding your Disneyland gives you something that is special to only you. So often we get so caught up in demands, in what others need and want from us, in the normalcy of routine. And having a special place that you are really passionate about gets your head out of that stuff. It allows you to have a mental break from the normal, the needy, the mundane and get your head clear for just a little bit. Cognitively, this makes your focus, memory, immune health, work endurance, and attitude more positive on a daily and consistent basis.
- Investing in your special thing allows you to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Whether it’s Disney or a yoga group you retreat with each year or a sports team, investing your energy and money in something that is magic to you makes you a part of something big, communal, and like-minded. This is a need built into everybody and it’s proven scientifically that the investment improves your entire physical health and the way you view the world around you!
- Creating time to spend in your place allows you to refresh, recharge, and heal. When you choose to plan for and protect time spent in those special places and groups, your entire being goes through a shift. Your brain relaxes and lets go of worry, your body releases tension and toxins, you physically relax and rest in your soul, you smile and laugh more, you reset internally. Not only have I found studies proving this, I AM proof of this. I just went through several years of relatively intense stress. Last year, there were 3 trips in a row to Disney in which my body let go of all the tension I was holding each time I’d go to the parks and I would end up with a seriously upset stomach and headache. My body needed to release and reset and being at the parks felt safe and allowed me to completely relax and release and rest. Every person needs this.
- Spending time in your Disneyland makes you more impactful and dynamic in your everyday world and life. I used to feel guilty about spending time and money going to the park, but once I allowed myself to be committed to this as a lifestyle, I became a completely different person here in my daily life. All day long I deal with people in crisis, people who are feeling like the world is terrible and life is awful and what’s the point. All day long I face intensity. At first, I couldn’t handle it. I would go home every day with the entire world on my shoulders. I couldn’t shake it. But then I began going to the park more often. The more I go, the more it becomes this other part of my life that I have ownership of. I know every corner of the park. I recognize all the minute details. I know the smells and the sounds in every corner. I feel I have ownership of the place and my time. This feeling of ownership and belonging over something so separated from my life here is a strange thing. I am driving from my home to the place that feels just as familiar. Since starting this, people’s most common comments to me involve things like “you’re constantly positive, you don’t walk around overwhelmed like everyone else, you are always singing, you are so animated….” There are several reasons for this, but Disney is one of them. Going often keeps me re-focusing, refreshing, re-setting. And everybody needs that. Especially if you’re in a position of service or leadership. It makes a dramatic difference. Whether it’s learning to play a new instrument or to paint, being involved in a group, going to a specific spot in nature, it’s worth it. Find what does this for you. Take some time to experience and try new things. And when you discover what is that pure magic for you, commit to it for a period of time and test the theory. See if you become more vibrant!