Our senses have a profound effect on our emotions. Here's how to harness that power for good.
Feeling a little overwhelmed these days? For many people — especially moms — this is a season of busyness and stress with members of the family going in different directions. Thankfully, I’ve got systems in place that keep my family’s days from teetering over into chaos, but the chaos all the comings and goings can create in our hearts and minds requires different strategies.
With everyone so busy, it’s become increasingly important for me to create and sustain a peaceful environment at home in order to safeguard the precious time we have together. When we don’t connect in meaningful ways at home, we tend to become more distracted, distressed, and just plain stressed — which can snowball and make our time together less peaceful. But I’m finding that merely having systems in place to keep life running smoothly — as important as they are — isn’t enough to create a truly peaceful home environment.
Peace, as it turns out, isn’t just the absence of chaos. An assembly-line is efficient and ordered, but it isn’t peaceful. Peace is something different. It’s a state of being, a tranquility that permeates a space, a person, or a group of people. If you (like me) haven’t yet internalized that kind of tranquility, don’t worry. There are some clever ways to transform your home into a tranquil space in which you and your family can find refuge. It begins with three of your senses …
Most of us rely on our eyes more than any other sense, so capitalize on it! Decluttering helps keep chaos at bay, but decorating is what helps infuse a home with a certain atmosphere. To make your home more peaceful, start with color. How do different colors play on your emotions? My favorite color is bright orange, but I tend to shy away from it in décor because it’s not peaceful. It’s bright, fun, and energetic — but not tranquil. For me, shades of blue are peaceful and restorative, so I gravitate towards those colors.
Spend some time creating an environment that calms you emotionally when you step into the house, using everything from color to furniture placement to art. Keep tinkering until you find a visual arrangement that immediately calms you when you enter — and enlist your family’s help.
A few years ago, my mom was on an essential-oil-diffusing kick. She told me all about the numerous health benefits, but what got me were the immediate emotional effects. Different blends of oils can instantly perk me up or make all the stress in my shoulders melt away, and I started noticing the same subtle effects on my kids. They didn’t have the language to say, “Mommy, this smell makes me feel tranquil,” but they told me in their own words. “Mommy, this smells so good. It makes me want to hug you,” was my favorite.
If you’re not a fan of essential oils, light a scented candle — or heck, even spray some natural air sprays around every day. Find a scent that smooths out the lines on your forehead and brings smiles to your family’s faces, and prioritize it. The sense of smell has a powerful effect on our emotions.
We take our hearing for granted — so much so that we often don’t realize how much our minds and moods are influenced by sound. I’ve found myself grinding my teeth and tensing my shoulders in response to the sound of car horns — but the sound of the horns didn’t even register consciously until I noticed my physical tension.
One of my favorite ways to foster peace is low-level background music (Beethoven’s sonatas are my go-to). But recently I’ve started to realize how precious silence is. There’s so much noise in the world coming at us all the time that we don’t even recognize how little time we spend in silence until it’s, well, silent. It can be off-putting at first, but if you make a space in your home for silence and stillness — no TVs or radios in the background, no dings from the phone or laptop — you’ll start to realize just how restorative silence is to the human spirit. Your family will likely realize the same thing. Silence brings solace and communion.
None of these is a magic bullet, obviously. Even if when you get them all mastered, there’ll still be days when someone gets into an argument, dinner is late, or your 6-year-old can’t find his shoe. Stress is part of life, but these little tweaks can help change the atmosphere in your home so that stress stays a part of life, not a way of life.