The design of your living space can have an impact on your well-being
Four tips on how to create a mindful home
It is increasingly accepted that the design of your home – and even your workplace – can influence your mental, psychological and even physical well-being. Consider how chaotic life can be, and how essential it is to have a place you can escape to, a place where you can be more mindful, and where you’re allowed to slow down and recharge.
The idea of mindfulness has seeped into every aspect of life, and within these newspaper’s pages alone, we have examined the effects of mindfulness on everything from the food we eat, to the books we read to our children, to the way we exercise, get work done or plan our getaways. It would make sense, then, that putting mindfulness at the forefront of our decisions when it comes to how we decorate can result in well-thought-out spaces that nurture emotional well-being and help us embrace a positive mindset.
A healthy space is one that is “soulful, tranquil, peaceful; a safe haven”, says Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of the LightHouse Arabia centre for mental health and wellness in Dubai. Dr Afridi recently hosted a talk at the furniture shop Home and Soul, examining how interior design plays a role in mindfulness. “Studies have shown that one of our basic needs as humans is to have somewhere we can feel at home in,” she says. “It’s imperative for our well-being, for our state of mind, for our positive outlook on life.”
A home is complicated, but it can say a lot about a person, she says, which is why everyone studies the home environment. Psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritualists, energy healers – they all take your home into account when they want to understand you better.
“Each item in your home has an energy, tells a story and informs your personality,” Dr Afridi says. “Consider this: what are the stories I am telling with the items I have in my home? If my home was alive, what kind of person would it be? Happy, energetic, old, depressed?”
Home and Soul owner and founder Carol Sukkar says a home should be entirely moulded around its owner. “Simply hiring an interior designer to create a showpiece that might not be your style at all will result in a home that has you stressed and bothered, rather than relaxed,” Sukkar says. “There needs to be personal touches in your home that speak to you, colours that you are comfortable with – not choices that are made because they are on trend, but have no place in your world.”
Incorporating design and decor tips to help you feel more at peace in your space is mostly based on common sense – there are no scientific claims that will have you jumping through hoops. Instead, take strategic design moves so you can be your best self in the place that matters to you most.
It’s the crucial first step that Dr Afridi, Sukkar and decluttering expert Salam Shaban, all agree on. Clutter, they say, is the enemy of mindfulness. “You cannot choose to practice mindfulness in your home environment if you’re surrounded by disorganisation and mess,” says Shaban, founder of The Tidy Mess home improvement business in Dubai, which helps clients organise their homes. Shaban is also an expert in the Kon Mari method of decluttering, developed by Marie Kondo, internationally renowned Japanese organising consultant and author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
“Every person needs a space they can come back to and just disconnect,” Shaban says. That means a space that is comfortable and can also energise you – impossible if clutter is rampant. It’s not just about decluttering alone. Every single thing in your home needs to have its own space for you to function better,” she says.
The more we accumulate, the more we will feel weighed down, and the harder it is to be mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, Dr Afridi says. “Decluttering is extremely important in creating any sort of space that is going to be truthful. Reiki masters will tell you that clutter and too much stuff are energetic anchors that hold you down. Patients who tell me they feel confused, lost and suffocated and claustrophobic mentally will often have homes that are cluttered and disorganised. We need to think about how our stuff might bring us down.” Carefully consider the things you keep, she advises.
Cleaning is crucial
Deep cleaning four times a year is not a luxury; it’s a necessity in a place like the UAE where dust and sandstorms are the norm, Dr Afridi says. “Those companies that come in and suck the dust out of your sofas and mattresses are a must.”
This type of cleaning will uncover issues such as mould and will put a stop to allergy problems, which is a sign of inflammation. The condition, Dr Afridi says, “is linked to depression and anxiety”.
“We have to consciously decrease the inflammation in our body,” he says. Make choices that help you maintain a cleaner home that is dust free where possible, she says, like choosing easier-to-clean rugs over wall-to-wall carpeting, or chairs devoid of upholstery.
Let there be light
Lighting can make a significant difference to the ambience of any space. For example, lighting that is too harsh, especially at night, can affect your sleep cycle, Dr Afridi says. Natural light, meanwhile, can enhance a positive outlook.
In Denmark, lighting is often viewed as the be all and end all when it comes to bringing peace into the home and living a cosy life, as the term hygge denotes. This is an entrenched trend in lifestyle and interiors, and the driving force behind Danes Christina Hansson and Kia Reimer’s Hygge Mansion in Dubai, which launched earlier this year. They say that living a hygge life is a facilitator for happiness.
“It’s something that’s part of our everyday life, we breathe it and live it without thinking about it. It’s part of why Danes are considered some of the happiest people in the world,” Hansson says. “And it all begins with lighting a candle.”
Integral to hygge is creating a relaxed, enjoyable, meditative environment, whether for yourself alone or for the people you welcome into your home. At Hygge Mansion, Hansson and Reimer sell products conducive to pursuing hygge in your own home – everything from natural salt candleholders to soft throws, handmade cushions and lamps for that all-important lighting aspect. “Hygge is self-care. You are doing something special for yourself; carving out special moments that aid in your own happiness. You are fully in the moment. You need the beautiful glow from a candle for that,” says Hansson.
Consider colour and placement
Sukkar says: “Not too long ago, I had a turquoise wall at home because it was on trend. It just didn’t feel good. I changed it to grey and white and it made all the difference; it brought in the calm I was craving. Colour is crucial.”
There’s a reason, Dr Afridi says, why hotel rooms are often decorated in warm, neutral colours. It’s to inspire calmness and simplicity. “Yellow and orange encourage socialising. Don’t have these in your bedroom, where you go to unwind and rest. Be conscious about your colour choices.”
The same goes for how you place your furniture. A space can look bigger, smaller, congested or spacious based on how furniture is placed. Dr Afridi advises getting rid of anything in your home that is chipped or cracked. “It sends signals to your subconscious of being broken,” she says.
Consider the rules of feng shui, as well. As you enter your home, for example, make sure that the path to the door is unobstructed, well lit and inviting. Slow down the pathways in your home, like the walk up the stairs or down the hallway, by using rugs or hanging pictures that make you stop and look at them. “This allows us to take a breath in a fast-paced world, energy wise, and creates space for reflection and introspection,” Dr Afridi says.