In theory, our homes are supposed to be our refuges away from the general-purpose stress and confusion of the world at large. Unfortunately, that’s not always how things actually work out in practice.
Allowing your home to become a stressful environment, rather than a rejuvenating one, isn’t just a bit inconvenient or unpleasant – it could actually be potentially devastating for your health and well-being.
The reason for this is that chronic stress is a serious killer, and chronically-elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, not to mention adrenaline, can lead to all sorts of illness and degeneration in the body – in addition to depression, severe anxiety, and other mood disorders.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the author Kelly McGonigal points out in her book, “The Willpower Instinct,” that research shows that the more stressed we are, the less willpower we tend to have available, and the likelier we are to give in to things like addiction or impulsive behavior.
So, finding ways to center and calm yourself in the home actually matters – and not just a little bit.
Here are a few suggestions on how to turn your home into a more calming and uplifting place.
Turn down the volume – constant background noise and distraction isn’t your friend
You may think that there is no harm in leaving the TV on as you page through the newspaper, or in trying to listen to the radio while shopping online.
In fact, though, this type of multitasking absolutely skyrockets your stress levels, whether you realize it or not.
The bottom line is that, as human beings, we are only meant to really pay attention to one thing at a time. The more distractions there are around us that place some demand on our attention, the more our minds struggle to try and juggle the different sensory information that’s coming at us, and the more we end up feeling as though we are in a state of danger and uncertainty.
If you want to relax in your home, the first thing you should do is to take real steps to “turn down the volume.” That means doing one thing at a time, for the vast majority of the time. There’s no harm in listening to an audiobook or some music while you do the dishes. But beyond that, try to narrow your focus.
Switch off the TV, switch off the radio, pack away books, magazines, and other potential sources of distraction when you’re not using them, and maybe even put a web-blocker on your smartphone so that you aren’t constantly compelled to surf the web while doing other things.
Create a cozy alcove where you can just sit and relax
For a home to be calming and relaxing, it should go without saying that you actually need to have the right “props” and layout to facilitate that aim.
If there’s no part of your home that seems like a place where you could just relax with a good book and a warm cup of tea, then you should really take steps to create a cozy alcove kitted out with furniture such as an Eames Lounge Chair, for example.
The structure of our home environments has a big impact on our moods and our behavior alike. Therefore, the odds are that if your home doesn’t “make it easy” for you to enjoy moments of relaxation – you probably spend a lot of your time in a permanently high-strung state.
Invest in a slow cooker and enjoy wholesome, filling, home-cooked meals every day
Back during World War II, a major study was conducted by researcher Ancel Keys, for the purpose of understanding the effects that starvation had on human beings – as well as how starvation could be effectively treated after the fact.
This study is now commonly referred to as the “Minnesota Starvation Experiment,” although it’s interesting to note that the study subjects were still taking in more daily calories than many modern-day dieters do.
Among other things, the researchers found that when subjects weren’t getting enough food for a prolonged period of time, their entire personalities changed for the worse. They became permanently stressed, permanently anxious, extremely moody and irritable, were far more impulsive and were less able to deal with even basic tasks.
Undereating doesn’t tend to be a major problem in the Western world today, but if you’re the type of person who only eats when you’re already ravenous, or who regularly goes on diets, this will inevitably contribute a lot to your stress levels.
To make sure that your home is a low-stress environment, invest in a large slow cooker, and make sure that there are always wholesome, filling, home-cooked meals available whenever you need or want one.
Go easy on the coffee and other stimulants
There are many proposed health benefits to drinking coffee, but it’s definitely the case that coffee – and caffeine and other stimulants in general – can contribute significantly to feelings of stress and anxiety.
Some research seems to suggest that this anxiety-provoking effect wears off after a few weeks, assuming you’ve kept your caffeine levels consistent. But, if anxiety and stress are already big problems for you, you might want to go easy on the espresso.
If you do choose to keep drinking coffee, make a point of never drinking it on an empty stomach. Instead, treat it almost like a “desert,” and only drink it after a filling meal. This will help to dull the stress-boosting effect.
Develop low-tech hobbies such as painting, writing, and reading
A lot of traditional creative hobbies – ranging from painting and writing to whittling wood and building shelves, have a strong “meditative” element to them.
Not only are you creating something, but you’re also put in a situation where you have to focus on one thing at a time, be present with what you’re doing, and avoid external distractions to a decent degree.
Many of the more modern and high-tech ways we have of entertaining ourselves are very different from this. Netflix, video games, and other entertainment media often put us more on edge – or at least, keep us plugged into the general web of distraction that comes with things like channel or internet surfing.
By developing some low-tech hobbies in your home, you may be able to significantly reduce your overall stress levels.