Mindfulness – where the likes of Philippe Starck and Ruby Wax converge, because mindfulness needs to be about mindful living. And as a designer who has worked with people at all extremes of the stress-level spectrum, it seems right to put some ideas into action. So let’s go through the home, room by room, and apply some mindful principles.
The bedroom: calm down
Do you wake during the night and can’t get back to sleep? Instead of fighting it, get up and go to make a warm drink (without caffeine – decaf tea or just hot water) and snuggle up on the sofa with a duvet and watch some quiet and calming TV. No horror movies or anything that will trigger adrenalin. This should take your mind off whatever thoughts keep playing in your head. Eventually you’ll feel sleepy and switch off, back to bed. Or you could read, or listen to a meditation app, whatever makes you concentrate on the here and now, and switches the chatter off in your brain.I read before I go to sleep… until I’m falling asleep. Other ideas include burning a few bay leaves on a plate to reduce anxiety; they smell great too. And of course yoga is great for detoxing, meditating and calming the mind as well as the body.
The living room: how to combat stress
Exercise is really good for combatting stress, anxiety and depression as it releases the feel good endorphins, increases neurone production and combats the cortisol production. So start the day with some Pilates stretches on the living room floor
Avoid emotional triggers, whether it’s a violent movie or one that makes you blubber. Put any potential confrontational situations at arm’s length if appropriate, or deal with it if you have to, then box it off and move on. You may then need to do some meditation, mindfulness or read to really take your mind off the problem and calm the anxiety reaction.Take time to learn meditation and breathing exercises, which can be hugely beneficial in calming the mind, or try a Sound Bath, a form of relaxation through music vibrations.
Understanding yourself and what you are dealing with is an essential part of healing yourself. For a lighthearted but fascinating read try Sane New World – Taming the mind by Ruby Wax and her second book Frazzled which is equally brilliant.
And try to avoid being reactionary. If you are stressed or anxious you already have a heightened level of adrenaline, so a relatively minor passing comment can irritate and annoy you. STOP. Do not react straight away. Think about what has been said, then try and look at it from the other person’s perspective and why did they say or do that. If it’s a text or email, read it several times as you can sometimes miss inferences or even words, that may affect how you react. Go away and think about it. Then if you need to reply or comment, do so in a calm, understanding, non-inflammatory way, saying “I do understand, perhaps….”. This quite often can defuse a situation from the outset, and reduce your own adrenaline reaction.
The garden: get your feet back on the ground
Gardening is proving a godsend for many right now, and the simple pleasures of growing flowers and vegetables can be soothing in themselves. But the garden is a space for much more; it’s a place to seek mindfulness, to be grounded. I occasionally go out into my garden and walk on the wet or dewy grass, because I like how it feels on my feet, I think about it and enjoy the sensation, just walking around the garden.
Be happy in yourself. Why do some people feel they have to ‘prove’ themselves, be demonstrable, confrontational or point the finger? When you are asked something or perhaps even be criticised, be confident in your own conviction, rather than argue back feeling like you have to raise a point. Simply reply with ‘Yes, I’m happy with what we are doing/ the decision I have made/ where I am at…’ etc… This can both defuse a situation and also say, in a polite way, it’s none of their business anyway.
Play music. Anything you love and makes you feel good, though preferably something upbeat or calming, even when you’re in the garden or hanging out the washing. Just as helpful, try listening to a podcast, a story or interesting talk show, or an audio book. This can be a very positive experience.
And don’t forget to laugh! Just by laughing more endorphins are released, so naturally it’s good for combatting stress and rebuilding neurones. Laughing is contagious. Research shows that in work areas where employees laugh and enjoy play time, productivity increases, defensiveness decreases and teamwork improves.
The office: brain overload
Harder than usual while working from home. Is your phone is constantly, pinging, whistling and demanding your attention, day and night? This is very distracting and not good for your brain, as it is constantly being bombarded with ‘splinters’ of information, some of which is utter drivel and quite frankly useless bits of information.
Manage your tech interactions and take control by switching the sound alerts to silent for the various social media sites. Then you simply allocate specific times of the day to dip in and have a look. This applies to emails too, in order to improve your productivity, personally or in business. Set your boundaries, be committed and manage it properly.
Sometimes you need to switch off the tech altogether. Phones, iPads, computers and TVs are all visually and audibly stimulating. They should be switched off at least an hour before bed, to let the brain calm and get off to sleep, particularly for kids. It’s recommended that children should only be on tech for a maximum of two hours a day. It is also suggested that we should not sleep with tech on the bedside, due to radio waves interfering with the brain waves and development. Research is under way on this but why not choose to be on the safe side. If you use for phone as an alarm, put it outside your bedroom door, or in another room, and buy an alarm clock.
But if you don’t manage to be perfect, don’t beat yourself up. Research, understand and make changes. Stuff in life happens. Official stats say that one in four of us will suffer a mental health event at some point in our lives. But we are more aware of it and have a better understanding, which can only be good for everyone.
Maybe it’s time to give something back? Ever wonder why you feel good when you have helped someone? That’s because the endorphin release in your brain is massive. So volunteering for a good cause or helping some needy people, can have huge feelgood benefits. It’s also contagious. If you help, then people like to help in return.
And instead of staring at a screen….relax in front of a fire, watch the flames and listen to the crackles. If you don’t have a real fire, go find one in a cosy pub and relax. This is great mindfulness.
The bathroom: Doing things to dispel the dark thoughts
Make your bathroom something more than just a functional space. Relaxing with candles, gentle music and soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts can help to draw out toxins through the pores and aid a good night’s sleep. It can also help to dispel dark thoughts.
The kitchen: don’t bottle it up
Make your kitchen a focal social point in your home. Eat with the family around the table (in the kitchen or dining room) rather than with a tray in front of the TV. That’s how the Italians do it, and they understand the value of family dynamics and talking through problems.
Acknowledge what’s happening in your life and take little steps which can lead to big and positive changes.
I’ve been on a journey that’s brought me to this point, a life event that has actually unlocked me. I feel I know myself so much better, accept my boundaries, know when I need to step back, make changes and where I want to head next in my life journey. There are many ways of dealing with and treating these symptoms, both naturally and with medication and you have to open your mind and find what works best for you.
If there is one word I can sum all this up with, it’s ‘immersive’. Be immersive. Maybe it’s the next stage on from Mindfulness.
Alison’s design photos show rooms at Windermere’s Cedar Manor hotel