One of my favorite things about emotional health is that there are so many different ways to influence and enrich it.
There are things we can do, things we can say, and things we can surround ourselves with that can all have a positive impact on our mental health, and that variety is one reason I never get tired of writing about it.
Today I want to step away from our minds and into our homes.
I think that we as a society underestimate the power our surroundings have over us. We spend more time at home and at work than we do any place else. While there probably isn’t a whole lot we can do about our environment at work, our homes are a different story. There we can create whatever atmosphere we like, and for those of us with anxiety disorders, I would say that a calm, relaxed atmosphere is best. Our homes should feel like a sanctuary – a place where we can escape from the hectic pace of the world and feel at peace and secure – and 100% ourselves.
Our brains are always processing, always gauging our emotional reactions to the world around us to make sure we don’t feel threatened or in danger. The more comfortable and relaxed we feel in our homes – the place that we spend the most of our time – the more we are telling our brains that our world is a pretty great, easy-going place to be. Our nervous brains LOVE hearing that.
If you are at home right now, take a look around you. What vibe are your surroundings giving off? Do you feel light and content when you look around or do you just feel “Meh…whatever..”?
Or even worse, do you look around and feel down, and/or apprehensive or anxious?
The good news is that if you aren’t breathing a peaceful sigh of relief as you look around, there are things you can do to change that. You can create a calming, relaxed atmosphere in your home and it doesn’t take a lot of money to do it.
Here are some easy ways to get it done.
Scent is one of my favorite ways to create a relaxed mood in my home.
I am not much of a cook so we don’t too often have the smell of freshly baked goods wafting through my halls, but fortunately the good Lord made Scentsy wax warmers for women like me.
Scentsy’s are one of the greatest things ever, in my opinion. I use mine all the time because their scents are second to none. However, if you are looking for a less expensive alternative, Wal-Mart sells both warmers and wax for a cheaper price than Scentsy and they have a great selection of scents. Every time I go to Wal-Mart I spent about 15 minutes in the was aisle just opening cube packs and smelling them with my kids.
Candles are also a great route to go with Yankee Candles being the top of the line in my opinion but again, Wal-Mart has a nice selection of candles that can provide some lovely aromas for your home.
Essential oils are a great way to enhance the atmosphere of your home and they don’t just smell great, a lot of people, including me, believe they provide some therapeutic benefit as well.
If the smell of oils and wax isn’t your thing, how about some good old fashioned lemon or pine cleaner? Lemon scented cleaner such as Pine-Sol is one of my favorite scents – I love the smell of clean. And don’t forget to choose some great smelling laundry detergent as well. My sister loves coming to my house because she says it always smells like “home” to her, which is actually the ever present smell of Gain that we grew up with.
Candle light, dimmer switches, lower wattage bulbs, decorative LED string lights – these are all ways to create a relaxed mood and provide some nice ambience in your home.
I recently purchased several strings of LED lights at my local Hallmark Store. They are a bit like Christmas string lights only much smaller and battery operated. I am not sure if all Hallmark stores sell them, but I found similar lights on their website and they probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find at any hobby store near you. I am addicted to them…have them in every room. They are such an easy way to provide a little bit of relaxing sparkle to your night and they make me feel a little bit of Christmas magic year round.
3. Tidy Up
Less mess equals less stress.
Few could argue with this one. I am a completely different person when I look around and my house is picked up. This rarely happens because I am a disorganized INFJ with 5 kids, but on those rare occasions when I do get a room picked up and it actually stays that way for a few hours, it feels AMAZING. I feel lighter than air.
I am not saying you should obsess with making your home picture perfect all day but it is a lot for your brain to process when your surroundings are full of things that are out of place. It is unsettling and its a reminder that you have work to do – and there is nothing relaxing about that.
4. Lose Some Stuff
Less physical clutter = less mind clutter.
My favorite thing in the world is to throw things away. I spend way too much time shopping and gathering things that I really don’t need and now and then I go through this phase where I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to see STUFF every where I look, even if it is in its proper spot, and I go through and purge as much as I can.
It feels amazing. I highly recommend it. Its like I lose 5 pounds of stress with every bag I throw away.
Remember that every single thing you bring in your home is like a little pet.
You have to take care of it, keep it clean, make sure it is where it needs to be…its a responsibility. I think we would all be shocked if we knew how much time we spent taking care of all the little pets we have.
The older I get the more I think the minimalists have the right idea and I remind myself of that every time I get the urge to go shopping. Sometimes I listen….sometimes I am too weak to say no to the urge to shop, but I at least have myself in the habit of being conscious about what I bring into my home now.
5. Color Palette
Color can make all the difference when it comes to setting a peaceful tone for your home. Choose soft colors and stay away from anything too harsh or bright.
Here are some nice relaxing color ideas from BuildDirect.com , and then of course Pinterest is just loaded with paint and color scheme ideas galore.
6. Surround Yourself With Things You Love
Your home is your space and it should feel 100% like YOU and your family.
While it is true that clutter can lead to a feeling of restlessness and stress, don’t be afraid to display a few things that have special meaning to you like photographs or your children’s artwork or a favorite knickknack from your childhood. It helps create a sense of harmony when you feel connected to your space – as if it is an extension of you.
7. Design Your Home To Live In, Not To Look At
I spent a lot of years and wasted a lot of money trying to get my home to look like a magazine ad with the perfect throw pillows on the most beautiful living room furniture that I could afford, coördinated perfectly with my perfect dining room table with the perfect centerpiece… and I created some nice looking spaces over the years. But I was never comfortable in any of them. The stylish furniture I chose was always stiff and not the kind of stuff you could sink into with a sigh at the end of a hard day.
One day after complaining to my husband that I never felt “at home” in our house, he said in that straightforward way that men so often do, “We need some real furniture.”
We were on a limited budget so we went to Big Lots and bought a sectional set that completely transformed our living room and the way we relax. Its attractive – not in a “magazine ad” kind of way, but in a comfy, homey kind of way. It is soft and you sink into it and we are so mad at ourselves that we didn’t buy this kind of furniture before!
Forget having your house look trendy and stylish! Comfortable living is the way to go.
If you can’t afford new furniture right now, that’s okay… there are still things you can do like adding some soft pillows and throws to your spaces, and placing some soft rugs on your hardwood floors so your feet have a softer surface to walk upon.
Music is the perfect way to create any mood you are looking for, including relaxation. I think it is one of the most under-utilized stress relievers there is.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a silent background for those times when you are having racing thoughts and feeling over-stimulated, but when you are trying to create a deliberate relaxing atmosphere in your home, having some background music playing can be a great help.
There are many different types of music that can be considered “relaxing”. Some people find “spa” type music to be relaxing, others prefer classical. Indie Folk music is what I usually put on when I want to chill out, but it depends on my mood. Don’t be shy about experimenting with different genres – you never know when you will stumble across music you really connect with. Some of my greatest musical finds have been “accidental”.
9. Create a Special Place For Yourself
Whether it is a window seat, a little hidden “cubby spot” somewhere, or even the corner of a couch with an end table next to it… create a special spot just for you and try to keep the husband or wife, dog, cat, and kids away.
Keep your favorite slippers and blanket there with a book or remote control and dedicate that spot to your relaxation. Watch TV or old movies there, write in your journal, or catch up on your reading. Or better yet – just sit and BE. We dedicate far too little time to just “being” anymore.
It is so beneficial to have a spot that you only associate with good, relaxing things. It helps that automatic relaxation response kick right in as soon as you sit down after a stressful day.
10. Feng Shui
Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of placing the objects around you in a way that promotes positive energy, balance and harmony. Feng Shui is considered a “pseudo science” by some, but many people believe that the way you arrange the furniture and other items in your home really can have positive effects such as a clearer mind, and less anxiety. I, for one, am a believer.
RealSimple.com has some great Feng Shui tips for you if you are new to the whole idea.
How do you make your home a more relaxing place? Please share in the comments below and remember, no worries.