Lower Anxiety by Soothing the Senses.
While our thoughts have the most powerful effect on our feelings, the older I get the more aware I am of how the environment plays a role in my anxiety levels. It initially began as a subtle feeling; a low-level irritability after being in crowded places, a foggy head after sitting at the computer for too long, a sense of lightness after walking in a park. Now it’s super clear to me the kind of places my nervous responds positively or negatively too- windowless rooms, traffic, loud noises, grey concrete are some of the things that are no good for my nervous system.
It’s no surprise that research has consistently found increased levels of stress and anxiety in patients in conventional hospitals then when compared to health care practices that provide soft lighting, nice pictures on the walls, plants, windows out to nature, and gentle music (yes, they do exist somewhere). These results have also been applied across different work settings.
This is because external information comes to us through our senses and has a lighting fast impact on our nervous system, which regulates our response to stress. Smell has the most intense and direct impact on our emotions because the Olfactory bulb, which processes information is connected to the amygdala and Hippocampus in the Limbic System. This is the part of the brain that affects mood and performance. Sound, particularly music can also seem to shift our emotions instantly. Being aware of this can be helpful when you’re feeling anxious because you can change them and shift your emotions.
I’m always encouraging my coaching and psychology clients to surround themselves with things that sooth the senses as much as possible. If your nervous system is in overwhelm regularly (from overworking, financial strains, relationship troubles, young kids) than making this a priority is important and can make a huge difference.
I invite you now to do a little exercise with me: First, just check in and notice how you feel right now. Tired, anxious, happy, excited, lonely, irritable, numb etc. Now look around wherever you are and take note of your external environment. If you’re out somewhere take in your surrounds- notice those things that your body responds too in a pleasurable and not so pleasurable way. For example, what’s the noise level like? Can you see nature? The colours of the walls? Smells? Temperature? People around you?
Do the same if you’re at home. For example, is the room you’re in neat and tidy or cluttered with stuff? Is the furniture and walls a soothing colour or boring and bland? Does it smell and feel fresh or stuffy and stale?
Now concentrate only on those things that your body responds well too and notice how you feel inside. Try not to think too hard about it, rather allow your body to naturally gravitate towards that which sooth and calms you.
Right now, as I’m writing this blog, I’m in my beach house that I call ‘my sanctuary’. I can smell fresh lime and vanilla from the air diffuser, I can see my two beloved plants by the window, lots of green trees and ivy outside, sunlight streaming in, a salt lamp and crystals on the cabinet, my fav pink throw on the couch, and a big photograph of a tree on my wall. Whenever I consciously connect to these things, I feel calm and grounded.
If you struggled to find something in your home/office that was soothing or pleasing to your senses than its time to spruce the place up!
Maybe you live or work somewhere that has little going for it aesthetically but aren’t able to make big changes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve on it. It’s the little touches that can make all the difference to your mood. Below is a list of soothing/calming things you could incorporate into your space to create your own little sanctuary.
- Air diffuser with your fav essential oils
- Crystal salt lamp (this not only looks cool but is a great air purifier
- House plants
- Nontoxic Room sprays to keep the energy in the room light and smelling fresh
- Delicious smelling candles
- A beautiful painting/photo on the wall
- De-clutter your space where you spend most of your time
- Colourful throws and cushions
- A beautiful bed spread
- Beach shells
- Cover any extension cords so you can’t see them
- Play gentle music or nature sounds in the background
- Bake something scrumptious smelling (my fav smell is a freshly baked brownie)
What are some of your sensual must haves that calm you? I’d love to hear from you. 🙂