Whether it was through imposed lockdowns or new work-from-home policies, it’s safe to say that many of us have spent a lot more time at home. A Covid-19 working from home survey showed that 78% of workers prefer to work from home for most of the week, their reasons ranging from improved well-being to a better work-life balance.
Because of this, some organisations are implementing a permanent WFH policy meaning many of us will continue to work from our home office (or beds!).
Despite the benefits of working from home, being at home can be more strenuous on the mind, with fewer opportunities to socialise or get a change of scenery; as a result, you could begin to start feeling a little more anxious or tense.
If this is the case for you then you’re on the right blog post! This guide will show you the importance of our relationship with our surroundings with simple and affordable tips to help create a space that captures calmness, induce productivity and encourage relaxation.
Environmental Psychology and Feng Shui
Many branches of psychology aim to improve our social, mental, and physical well-being. Environmental psychology is the study of people concerning features within natural and built environments and more importantly, how we can influence these features to improve our relationship with our surroundings.
We often underestimate just how much of our physical environment affects our psychological well-being and because of this, many of us don’t take the time to be intentional with our living spaces.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, with many contemporary interior décor concepts emanating from longstanding practices like Feng Shui- the ancient Chinese art of arranging your environment to create balance and restore positive energy (Chi).
Much like many interior décor practices, there are levels to achieving the art of Feng Shui.
Within Feng Shui is an energy map (Bagua) made up of 8 elements that represent different focal points of life:
- Family (Zhen)
- Wealth (Xun)
- Health (Tai Qi)
- Helpful People (Qian)
- Children (Dui)
- Knowledge (Gen)
- Fame (Li)
- Career (Kan)
- And Partnerships (Kun).
Each of these elements has its respective shapes, season, colours, materials, and elements that represent them for example, Health is represented by orange and brown hues, square shapes, and the Earth element.
Many sceptics have highlighted that the placement of furniture or colour scheme of a room isn’t enough to positively impact our mental well-being by highlighting the limited scientific evidence for Feng Shui…but actually the research is there.
Daskir and Read’s 2011 study had people look at computer-generated rooms with either rounded or straight-edged furniture and found that there was a significant preference for the rooms decorated with curvilinear furniture.
Participants justified their preference for the rounded furniture by saying that "it seems to give off a calming feel”.
Although the study doesn't mention Feng Shui by name, it is a clear indication that the underpinnings of this ancient Chinese philosophy have some empirical merit to them.
There are scientific and philosophical motivations to design a space that encourages calmness and as promised, here are some tips to help you on your journey to a more tranquil living environment:
Bamae’s guide to a calmer living space
One of the reasons we might not be able to establish a calmer living environment is because there’s just too much stuff. A lot of us are guilty of holding onto things we’ve somehow convinced ourselves we “might need at some point” and eventually we end up with a build-up of things we don’t need or even want.
The accumulation of clutter in your living space can make it look and feel a lot smaller than it actually is, leaving you feeling disorganised and overwhelmed.
The benefits of decluttering your space are vast from improving your well-being to transforming the look of your home.
Decluttering your space has been linked to improving decision-making skills, feeling accomplished and reducing levels of stress. So why not start organising your items- consider donating the ones in good condition and you’ll start seeing and feeling the difference. Start small- begin sorting out your clutter by items (clothes, CDs, books) or room by room so you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
Once you’re finished, you’ll be able to see how much more space you’ll have to work with. You could finally have enough space for that desk to get more work done or even the floor space to do your morning meditation.
2: Keep different rooms for different purposes
Establishing the different purposes for the rooms in your home is crucial to maintain a good sleep cycle. Psychologist Jessica Borushek notes that the brain easily creates associations between your actions and experiences.
This means that using your bedroom to do work- where you probably experience high amounts of stress and anxiety- will disrupt your ability to get a good night's sleep and alternatively, you might find yourself dozing off when you’re meant to be productive.
Creating a boundary between the space between where you experience stress and where you rest, will help your mind disassociate from the two. Additionally, limiting your screen time before bed is a good idea, to reduce the effect of blue light emissions disrupting your melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels.
You can do this by turning a spare room into an office space or investing in a room divider to physically separate your work life from your home, further solidifying that transition of going from work life to home life.
3: Get some greenery
It’s no secret that eating greens is good for you. Now, what if we told you that you can have similar mood-boosting benefits without having to force yourself to eat spinach?
According to the principles of Feng Shui, viewing green areas such as a garden or incorporating plants into your décor can have restorative properties, improving your overall well-being through stress reduction.
Adding a plant in your living room or workspace can help add some life to it- (literally).
You could start off with something low-maintenance plants like succulents that don’t need frequent watering, or maybe a plant well known for its calming presence like a Bonsai Tree.
4: Get inspired and mood board
Decorate your space with colours that emanate calmness. The psychology of colour is a fascinating concept so why not use it to your advantage and utilise colour to create a calmer environment?
Colours such as white, blue, and green have been known to have physiological effects on your body by slowing the heartbeat and soothing the mind. This is because these colours are symbolic of elements that we find in nature (clouds, water, forests).
To achieve a really calm atmosphere, focus on incorporating softer shades of blue and green like powder blues or sage greens as they tend to naturally brighten a space, turning your home into a breath of fresh air without opening a single window.
Depending on your level of commitment (and free time) this can be done by sprucing your walls with a fresh coat of paint or opting for soft furnishings like throws or rugs to lighten up the rooms.
TIP: Use visual discovery engines like Pinterest or Houzz to get some beautiful and unique deco inspiration for your mood boards. Planning your colour scheme and décor pieces will help give your space a more consistent style.
5: Common scents for calmness
Our sense of smell is one of our more powerful senses which is all the more reason to invest in the scent of your living space as well as the aesthetics.
Look into getting some scented candles to not only create a haven for your nose but enhance your overall experience with a warm glow-y ambience.
Alternatively, you could get yourself some essential oils and a diffuser. Essential oils with scents like lavender are ideal for stress relief and improving sleep. Other scents you could choose for inducing calmness are eucalyptus, chamomile or jasmine.
A little bit every day
So, there you have it. Some of our best tips on creating a calm living space in a time where you might find yourself at home a lot more.
Now don’t feel as though you need to do all of these things at once to create your haven. You may get overwhelmed and that would completely defeat the point of our guide!
Instead, adopt a little-but-often technique. Do little things every day to help you slowly, but surely, to the point where your living space achieves the calm you want.
This could be buying a candle on a Monday and then a plant the following day. The irony of overwhelming yourself trying to create a calmer living space definitely exists, but tackling the tasks one at a time and doing them daily will avoid this, and in turn, make the process enjoyable.