Microdose #006: Create a Spa Atmosphere at Home
Create a spa-like environment in your home to combat the chaos of the day.
BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):
Creating a spa environment in your home will enhance your relaxation. For most, the image of a spa is a place where your mind and body are at rest, and can begin to de-stress. Research shows that spa-like relaxation techniques have a positive effect on our subjective wellbeing and mental health. Bring a trip to the spa home with you, and reclaim balance in your living space.
In the Plan section we’ll show you how to create a serene and peaceful environment at home.
The world is a hectic place, and for many, the chaos of modern life has creeped into our homes, where we should find sanctuary. Working from home has brought all of the stress of the outside world to our living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. We need to set aside time not only to keep our homes livable, but also to enhance them, so they are comfortable and restorative.
- Anecdotal evidence on aromatherapy suggests that it can have mild effects on our cognition and mood, including mild relief from depression and anxiety.
- Analyzing the reactions of a group of women describing their homes, using linguistic analysis revealed that “relaxing” home environments produced decreased depressed mood throughout the day.
- After psychological stress, recovery is faster during exposure to pleasant nature sounds. In another study, specifically about gastroscopic operations, patients related feeling less stressed before surgery when placed in an OSE (optimal soothing environment), which included lavender essential oil and a relaxing video program. Patients reported less pre-surgery anxiety in the OSE.
- Massage therapy has been shown to have beneficial effects on illnesses from depression to asthma, and although some of the results are based on self-report, the most obvious benefit, relief of muscle pain, has robust research backing it.
Your home should be a sanctuary, a place of refuge and safety, not only from the cares of the outside world, but from the internal stressors we feel on a daily basis. Western culture does not put a particularly high value on wellness, therefore, dedicated self-care spaces are considered an extravagance. We challenge that idea and suggest that creating a dedicated wellness space in the home is not an indulgence, but a necessity. Here are our tips on creating an environment that enables you to enhance your wellness. Even if you live in a studio apartment, you can accomplish this.
Dedicate Space - Spas have dedicated areas for waiting, treatments, refreshments, and sometimes reflection (e.g., a solarium). Psychologically speaking, dedicated spaces help prime the mind for the activities that take place there. For example, the research recommends not getting into bed until you are ready to go to sleep, because this will train your brain to fall asleep faster, recognizing that this is solely a place for sleeping. In the same way, when you create a dedicated space for wellness in your home, you will train your body and mind to be prepared for relaxation and reflection. This space will vary widely between people and homes, but here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine what that space might be for you:
- Where do you feel most relaxed in your home?
- What is the quietest space in your home?
- Is that space somewhere that you can carve out and solely use for reflection or wellness purposes? (This does not need to be a large space. It might just be a chair by a window.)
- Can you optimize this space by including a comfortable chair, table, plant, etc.?
Engage Your Senses - Spas are designed to engage all of your senses. From the temperature and smell to the infused water and dim lighting, they are optimized for relaxation. While dim lighting and water features are probably not practical in all homes, take a moment to consider which of these elements you can include in your personal space.
- Lighting: Choosing the right color temperature for your home can have an effect on your mood and health. Cooler lights, with a bluish tint, tend to have an energizing effect, while warmer lights, with a yellowish tint, a calming one. When deciding on the lightbulbs for your house, consider which of these to use in which rooms. If you have rooms that are multipurpose (i.e, an office in your bedroom), it might be worth investing in a smart bulb that can shift between color temperatures and hues.
- Aroma: Smell has a powerful connection to memory, even more so than sight. Use this connection to stimulate relaxation by reflecting on times when you have felt or experienced positivity. The smell of a pot of tea steeping might remind you of your grandmother, or the smell of fresh laundry reminds you of being a carefree kid. Whatever your memory happens to be, use it to enhance your relaxation. Try placing a pot of water on the stove with orange, clove, cinnamon, and a little coconut oil. Simmering this mixture over low heat will fill your house with the wonderful smell of autumn.
- Taste: One of the hallmarks of the spa environment is infused water, which is incredibly easy to recreate at home. Two combinations to try are: slices of grapefruit and fresh sprigs of thyme, and a mix of sliced cucumber, lime, and mint. Another easily replicated way to bring the “taste” of the spa home, is keeping nuts and fresh fruit stocked in your home, to snack on while you’re taking dedicated relaxation time.
Cosseting (to care and protect in an overindulgent way) - Spa specialize in pampering. Doing this at home requires carving out the time and effort to do something special, solely for your own enjoyment. While this may feel self-indulgent at first, make a conscious effort to de-stigmatize the practice. You deserve care. A simple way to start, is to turn one of your regular showers (or baths) a week into a lavish experience. Here’s how:
- Prepare yourself a cool and refreshing drink (infused water, a mocktail, etc.) and prepare (wash, cut up, refrigerate) some fruit for after your shower.
- Dry brush your entire body, stimulating your nervous system, and exfoliating all of your skin.
- Improve the sometimes harsh bathroom environment by lighting candles and turning off the overhead lighting.
- Turn on some relaxing music or nature sounds that will allow your mind to wander.
- Test the water, it should be slightly above body temperature for optimal skin health.
- Take a few deep breaths (box breathing -- which is breathing in for a count of 4, holding for 4, then out for a count of 4, and holding for 4 -- is an excellent option here).
- While you rinse away the day's stresses, contemplate the best things about your day so far and what in your life has brought you to have those things.
- Towel off and moisturize your body from the neck down.
- Put on a soft robe (or pajamas) and apply Grüner’s Evening Ritual Oil to your face.
- Pour yourself a glass of ice water and enjoy some chilled fruit.
Alex - Creating a dedicated space for wellness was particularly hard for me, because I tend to work from multiple places in the house on any given day. I start out on the couch, move to a chair on the landing, and finish my workday standing at the kitchen counter on my laptop. To completely designate a space that is solely for reflection was definitely a challenge. I ended up using the one space in the house that I use for no other purpose than to treat myself, the bathtub.
Frank - I’m a bit of a spa aficionado. I love being pampered, but I always feel weird when I’m pampering myself. There’s a stigma around being too self-indulgent, especially as a man. What’s helped me is to connect my spa rituals to other wellness practices like gratitude, mindfulness, and skincare, so that I feel I’m also being productive in my self-care. Hopefully one day, I can feel comfortable to just relax, without the presence of a massage therapist and an infrared sauna.