Whilst it’s true that happiness and long-lasting peace are found on the inside, the things we engage with on a daily basis have a huge impact on how happy or peaceful we feel. Have you ever noticed that you feel calmer in some environments than others? Or that you’re drawn towards certain colours, scents and textures? Our senses take in countless experiences each day; from the sight of a bright sunny morning to the feeling of putting on your softest yoga pants; and the taste of a warming cup of chai to the smell of a lavender-scented balm to calm the nervous system before bed. The things we surround ourselves with can be powerful tools to either cause stress and anxiety, or bring about a state of calm, clarity, contentment and ease. Read on for five ways to soothe the senses and ease any lingering anxiety.
We all have different preferences when it comes to how we arrange our homes; some of us are minimalists with bare white walls and plenty of floor space, whilst others are maximalists with bursts of colour and creativity in every corner. However you like to style your space, many cultures and holistic wellbeing practices agree that it should feel good and allow the energy of the home to resonate on a positive level. De-cluttering and getting rid of old, broken items can be a wonderful way to refresh your space and let go of old habits and memories we often attach to possessions, and this practice is also useful for de-cluttering the mind, too. When we walk into a space filled with junk or items we’ve been meaning to sort through, it creates unnecessary stress and a nagging feeling of never quite completing that to-do list. To clear your space (and your mind) dedicate just 10 minutes each day to focussing entirely upon de-cluttering and donating items you no longer need, or cleaning a specific area of the home. More space and clarity in the home frees-up space in the mind for more creative endeavours – and if you are feeling creative, try painting areas of your home blue, green, turquoise, yellow or pink, which have all been shown to have de-stressing, mood-boosting qualities.
All matter is made of vibration, and sound is a powerful way to change the vibration of a room, a person, or a state of mind. ‘High vibration’ sounds help us feel physically and mentally well by raising our own energetic vibration. Try listening to a 528hz Binaural Beats recording online, spending time in nature surrounded by birdsong, rustling leaves and running water, or simply switching on a song that uplifts your mood. Singing and playing instruments can also help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. When we sing or chant a mantra, we stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn helps ‘switch on’ the relaxation response, thus decreasing anxiety and promoting peace. Traditional Chinese Medicine practices include specific sounds that are said to nourish the body’s organs and relax the nervous system. Try the following to nourish and calm each organ in turn:
Heart & Small Intestine: “Haaaaaaaa”
Spleen & Pancreas: “Whoooooo”
Triple Burner / San Jiao (the core or trunk of the body): “Herrrrrrrrrrr”
There’s a reason essential oils, diffusers, room sprays and scented candles are so popular; these wonderful smells make us feel good. The sense of smell is directly linked to a part of the brain that stores memories, and many smells will evoke strong emotions if we’ve been around them before – freshly cut grass in the summer, a mother’s perfume, or your favourite meal cooking on the stove. Scent can also be utilised to change mood levels in a very effective way. Try using peppermint to boost motivation, lavender to promote relaxation, rosemary to improve memory, jasmine to increase mood levels, or lemongrass to ease anxiety.
Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years not just for cooking, but for changing the way we feel, too. Your kitchen cupboard may even be stocked with an abundance of relaxation-inducing, feel-good items already. Try adding nutmeg to warm almond milk at night to help send you off to sleep, turmeric to stimulate the release of serotonin – the body’s natural happy hormone, cinnamon to enhance cognitive function, or cloves to help release stress and decrease fatigue. Also consider the foods you’re eating – we need plenty of good quality fats in order to maintain good mood levels, and good quality carbs to keep blood sugar levels balanced. If you notice you’re feeling hangry (hungry & angry) a lot recently, perhaps reflect upon whether you’ve been feeding your body enough of what it really needs.
Studies show that when we’re feeling anxious or low, we naturally feel the urge to reach for a soft, comforting texture. This could explain why children are soothed by a blanket or bear, or why we feel a lot better after a warm hug from a friend. If you’re feeling a little less-than-optimal right now, surround yourself with textures you love, put on your softest clothes, practice plenty of restorative yoga with comfortable props, and treat yourself to an eye pillow to upgrade your savasana and soothe your mind.
Emma is a 500hr qualified Yoga teacher, musician, massage therapist, cook, and writer. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma began her practice at a young age and has continued to study and develop her understanding of Yoga on a daily basis. Training internationally with inspirational teachers, Emma’s passions now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma currently teaches regularly in Sussex, co-leading teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and also manages the Brighton Yoga Festival.