The 2020 global pandemic has changed our daily lives in so many ways. Travel restrictions have meant that most of us are spending more time at home than ever in living memory.
We don’t often think of our homes as having direct impacts on our health, but in fact they do. You may have had a doctor ask you about your home environment in terms of allergies to pets or dust covers for down bedding. We encourage family members to remove slippery rugs or tripping hazards for elderly patients at risk for falls. But these kinds of questions barely scratch the surface when it comes to how your home environment can affect your overall wellbeing.
Home is everything
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, home serves to house most of our basic physiological needs: shelter from the elements (warmth), sleep, sex, clothing, food and water. Having a home where we can feel safe and comfortable allows our bodies to rest and digest, to restore homeostasis and to rebuild its innate resilience.
In prepandemic times, some of us may not have spent many rest hours at home. Perhaps they had a hectic travel schedule or busy social lives, so home was more of a way station: a place to locker our things and to catch some sleep. But now that we are mostly grounded, everyone’s homes have been required to morph into our office, meeting room, classroom, gym, playground, studio, and so much more.
Loving what is
Looking ahead to better times in 2021, I’d invite you to take stock of this intimate place you call home. Consider what you love about the space: do you remember what drew you to it in the first place? Was it the light, the layout, the view? Or perhaps you liked the proximity to work or convenient access to shopping or transit. Do you love the way you’ve cleverly tucked away the tupperware, or the sense of calm when you sit down with your Sunday morning coffee?
How do you feel when you look around? Does it feel comfortable, safe? Do you feel like you belong here? Are you proud of your resourcefulness in making this or that little corner more functional. See if you can remember some good times you’ve enjoyed in this space, like when you celebrated a holiday or a promotion. Or cozy evenings at home watching television or making cookies.
Most of us will tend to focus on the negative - the clutter or the cramped conditions. And certainly there can always be room for improvement. But instead of believing that you need 2 weeks to completely declutter or that you just need to move out, what if we gave ourselves permission to relax into the ease and comfort of how our home actually is.
When we decide to make changes for ourselves, we are taking back the power to change the experience of our lives moment by moment.
What if you were to challenge yourself to change just 3 simple and easy things about your home this week?
Display some favorite books by stacking them neatly on a shelf or table where you will see them. In her free blog “House Calls for Busy Physicians,” Dr Kricia Palmer says, “There is something about books that are authentic and cozy.”
Palmer also suggests hanging a couple of favorite photos or art on the wall. 3M Command brand hooks are widely available, easy to use, and won’t damage most walls.
Adding a small plant or flowers makes any space more inviting, and research has shown that contact with nature is soothing. Succulents tend to be low maintenance and inexpensive.
Fill your space with music, even for a few minutes every day, can allow you to let go and shift gears, evoking a different mood or memory,
Hang a brightly colored scarf, tie or hat where it will catch your eye when you look around the room. That splash of color can be on the back of a chair or hooked on the closet door, reminding us that there is light at the end of this pandemic tunnel.
As you look around your home this coming week, notice if your energy has shifted at all. Do you feel more in control of your environment? Are you surprised at how even a small change can shift your perspective?
The point of this exercise is to help you see that our brains are our most powerful asset. When we decide to make changes for ourselves, we are taking back the power to change the experience of our lives moment by moment. We are led to believe that transformation must happen in a blinding, all encompassing flash of epiphany. But more often it is a journey of a thousand steps, some as tiny as the hanging of a favorite piece of art..
Three ways to make your house feel like home is a House Calls for Physicians blog by Dr Kricia Palmer.