Cultivate your calm
We are in unprecedented times and nerves are probably frayed even more than usual. We’re winding each other up, pushing each other’s buttons, until we are on the ceiling and muttering expletives under our breath! So now more than ever, creating a space and time in your day, to just be, is really important. Nothing complicated, no fancy exercise or subscriptions to apps required.
Focused meditation: You may recall that we are big fans of candle meditation (link to blog), but it's not always practical, especially if you are looking to involve the whole family in calm time! Focused meditation is accessible to anyone with a few minutes to spare, and it's also easy to get the children involved with too.
- Choose something to focus on. You can choose anything to focus your attention on; that can be an object, a sound or even a sensation. Focusing on your breath is a good choice since it is usually the entry point to any meditation practice. Or if you have an aroma diffuser they are a great alternative to candles as focusing on the plumes of mist and changing light can be very relaxing.
- Get comfortable. It is best to be sitting upright. If you are sitting on the floor, prop yourself up with a cushion and straighten your spine. Then relax your body, loosen your shoulders and breathe from your belly.
- Tune into the object. Zero into the sensations, including the sound, smell, sight, and details of your focal point. The idea isn't to think about it but simply do it, immersing yourself in the moment, paying attention to the sensations you experience and the details of the object as you as you inhale and exhale each breath.
- Calm your inner voice (this is the hard part!). Before you know it you have lost focus on the object and zoned in on the running commentary in your head! It takes practice but if you find your mind wondering to your shopping list, gently turn your attention back to your chosen target. Start with short sessions and then build up, but you can do this anywhere and for however long you have.
Remember, you don’t need to be a perfectionist; sometimes that shopping list will win out!
Light: Changing the lighting in a room can have a huge effect on the way you feel and the mood of the space.
- If you have access to space with good natural daylight this is a great place to start. Exposure to sunlight increases the brain’s release of serotonin, the mood-boosting hormone, so open up any curtains or blinds that you might have to let the natural daylight flood in. Soak up the moving light and changing shapes. If you can go outside and feel the sunlight, even in the rain, this can have a real calming effect, slow your breathing and calm the mind.
- However good sunlight is, if your work hours vary, or natural light is not always forthcoming (especially in Manchester), having some well-placed, relaxing ambient lighting, or candles - if practical, can help to create a calming environment. Just make sure you avoid the harsh, negative energy of flickering fluorescent lights.
Plants = Zen: I am at risk of becoming a mad plant women, but I am relying on the science that plants can make you happier and calmer to justify it! Adding plants or flowers into your calm space will instantly help you to feel more at ease, and the simple task of watering them and nurturing them is calming in itself. There is also some evidence that suggests talking to plants helps them grow, so it’s a win - win as they don’t answer back or judge you either.
Aromatherapy: If you’re looking to create a calm environment that brings you stress relief, it will be no surprise that we recommend incorporating aromatherapy into your home and daily routine. As you breathe in the aromas of the essential oils, they can trigger the olfactory system (the part of your brain connected to smell) and as the molecules waft up your nose - into your brain - they affect the limbic system which plays a role in your emotions, heart rate, stress levels and hormone balance. It is here that they are processed and release the chemicals that revive you or help you to relax - depending on the essential oil. Aroma diffusers are one of easiest way to dispense the aromatheraputic properties of essential oils into your surroundings.
Have a tech break: Make time in your day to switch off your phone or tablet. Not only are they huge distractions, but constantly checking social media, news sites or emails and can make you feel permanently on edge. Let’s face it, any notifications, the latest funny cat meme, or celebrity gossip will still be there when you emerge from your calm space.
Play calming music: Another great way to instantly enhance your mood and put you into a nice, relaxed place is to play some music. Music has incredible mental health benefits. It’s a powerful tool used to calm the mind and body, especially those with slow soothing melodies and instrumentation. You can create your own playlist or tap into a specially curated one. I also love Weightless, which was produced by the British ambient band Marconi Union and topped a scientific list of the world's most relaxing pieces of music.
So what’s stopping you, sit up straight, water your plants, fire up your aroma diffuser and cultivate your calm…