Welcome to Part 4 of our Wellbeing Takeover! Earlier this week we spoke about how smell is our strongest sense, so encouraged all of you to think about including mood enhancing scents into your home. If you’d like to read about it, click here. For today though, we’re lucky enough to speak to Martha Roberts. Martha is an award winning journalist, monthly columnist for Pscyhologies mag and host of The Colour File. But as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also the author of ‘Shelfie‘ (Mitchell Beazley, 2018) which came out in July (details on how to win a copy at the bottom of this post). Why are we speaking to her today? Well Martha is an expert on mindfulness and using colour in the home. She enables us to think about the ways in which both make us feel and act. Since we’ve been banging on for quite some time now that our interiors have a huge impact on our wellbeing, we’re quizzing Martha on how to achieve mindfulness at home.
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is a way of thinking that’s about being in the here and now. In our busy lives it’s all too easy to get caught up in our thoughts and to fail to notice how our thoughts are driving our behaviour and emotions. We end up living ‘in our heads’ rather than stopping to notice how we are feeling, acting and what we are sensing. Mindfulness expert Professor Mark Williams, of the University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry, says that mindfulness can play a role in combating this by helping us to reconnect with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means becoming more aware of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of what’s around us right now. The idea is that by seeing the present more clearly, we can change the way we see ourselves and our lives for the positive. This is why incorporating mindfulness practices is seen to be so important to our mental health and wellbeing”.
Martha’s 3 Steps To Achieving Mindfulness At Home
Make a small haven in your home It doesn’t have to be a whole room; it can just be an armchair with a coffee table next to it for your magazines and a G&T. A calming space will help you to be present and to enjoy that moment. Make sure the chair isn’t looking out onto chaos or things you need to do (like a full basket of washing waiting to be put away) or you’ll be focused on that rather than the moment.
Declutter visual noise Having too much visual ‘noise’ around can remind you of all the things you have to do whether it’s paperwork, tidying or organising someone to come and fix that broken shelf. Being mindful amidst chaos can be a real challenge – how are you supposed to connect with what your body is doing when your inner voice is saying ‘You haven’t sorted the recycling yet!’? Decluttering means different things to different people. To a minimalist, it will probably mean every surface being cleared but if you’re a maximalist like me, it means all my stuff being on display but in an arrangement that pleases me.
“To a minimalist, it will probably mean every surface being cleared but if you’re a maximalist like me, it means all my stuff being on display but in an arrangement that pleases me“.
Do a shelfie It’s only as time has gone by that I’ve understood the importance of doing shelfies to my mental health and wellbeing. I see doing them as a very mindful exercise, not least because I often find myself doing them when I’m feeling stressed or anxious (I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder so I definitely need something to help me to regularly recalibrate). I’ve never been very good at yoga or meditation – I like to keep busy. But doing shelfies are, for me, a form of ‘active’ mindfulness where I’m doing something physical and creative but am also very much in the here and now. When I’m clearing the shelf, choosing the theme, selecting objects and deciding upon colours, I’m not thinking of anything else. My cares and troubles seem to halt and, actually, when I go back to them I’ve often found I have a new perspective on things. Then, of course, there’s the finished result: standing back and admiring my shelfie also feels mindful, a bit like getting lost in a painting at an art gallery”
Image Source Link (Take From Martha’s ‘Shelfie’ Book) : Amazon
Is there a link between our mental health & our home?
“Most definitely. There is research that shows that the ‘right’ buildings can make you happier and the ‘wrong’ ones can do the opposite. One study (Zeisel et al., 2003) found that access to natural light can help people to feel more relaxed while 2007 research at the University of Minnesota found that ceiling height can free up people’s thinking”.
Tips to a happier home & a happier you
Think green. Research shows that plants are great for our mental wellbeing. They lower levels of anxiety and raise job satisfaction. One study found that looking out onto greenery helped to improve concentration than view of manmade structures. Other research found that apartment blocks in Chicago that were surrounded by vegetation suffered half as many crimes as blocks with little or no greenery. We can’t all look out onto green spaces but we can put plants in our homes.
Maximise natural light. Natural light helps to set our body clock so that we are alert when we need to be and sleepy as the day draws to an end. It also boosts vitamin D, low levels of which have been associated with low mood and depression. However, not all of us are lucky enough to have rooms bathed in daylight. If you have a room that isn’t particularly light and bright, use clever lighting and mirrors to introduce a feeling of light and space instead. Consider the colour of the bulb you’re using, too. Cool, blue light is great in the morning to trigger the sympathetic nervous system into making us alert and ready to go while a warmer light in the evening helps to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which is associated with being relaxed.
Surround yourself with things you love. 2003 research found that having personal objects around us in a personal space helped to reduce levels of anxiety, depression and aggression in Alzheimer’s patients. Having things around us that matter to us makes us feel grounded and calm.
A big thanks to Martha for taking the time to speak with us. Learn more about her on her website TheColourFile.