As we enter our fifth month of pandemic status and look ahead to a future that offers no guarantees for life going back to what it was, it’s a good idea to pause and bring some attention to what the new normal is within our own lives.
Although some aspects of life seem just the same as ever, most of us are finding ourselves adopting new routines and following new rhythms. One thing we probably all share in common is the increased amount of time we’re spending at home.
For some of us, this has been a gift—an opportunity to slow down the hectic pace of things and ground down in our own space. But for others—and, perhaps, for all of us at some point or another—staying at home so much has felt like a prison sentence. It can be maddening to stare at the same four walls all day. It can be totally crazy-making to fit multiple people with multiple needs doing multiple things under the same roof.
And under these unusual circumstances, in which confinement is the safest option, it’s natural to feel trapped and overwhelmed from time to time. That’s why it’s so important to be mindful of the space we’re inhabiting, and to consider how the energy of our environment is affecting us.
While we continue to confront the challenges presented by this pandemic, it’s good to consider how we can create a space for ourselves and our families that will help us get through this as comfortably as possible. If your new normal is of the live-and-work-and-school-from-home variety, here are seven adjustments you can start implementing today to make your home feel like a haven:
- Let the light in. It’s been proven that our mental health responds positively to natural light, even if we’re indoors. Exposing ourselves to sunlight by leaving the curtains open during the day goes a long way in helping us feel good at home. And, of course, spending time in the outdoor spaces of our homes, if we have them, offers a change of scenery and boost of Vitamin D that will go a long way in keeping us feeling good (or, at least, sane).
- Keep it clean. Let’s face it: Most of us consider cleaning to be a chore. And during this pandemic, when few, if any, people are coming over to visit, it’s easy to procrastinate on household chores and cut ourselves extra slack on cleanliness. But the truth is, the state of our space influences the state of our minds. When you keep your home clean and tidy, you make a meaningful contribution to your wellbeing. Plus, once you get into the flow of it, the act of cleaning can even be a form of meditation and mindfulness practice.
- Claim a personal space. Whether you live alone or share your place with many people, it’s important to feel truly at home in your space—especially if you’re spending almost all of your time there. One way to do this is to claim a personal space in your home that feels meaningful and special to you. This can be a particular chair in your living room, an altar by your bedside, a special reading nook, or a spot near a window that lets you look out at the world. Whatever space you claim for yourself, make it personally meaningful, and go there whenever you need to shift your energy and come back to yourself.
- Set limits on sound. When you have multiple people at home all day, it’s easy to wind up in a sensory overload situation. The sounds of the TV, appliances, gaming devices, laptops, and cell phones colliding with one another can be unnerving. That’s why it’s important for you and your family members to spread out as much as possible, be mindful of each other’s activities, use headphones whenever possible, and keep the sound bleed to a minimum. Your nervous systems will thank you!
- Make your bed a sacred space. If you’re home all day, it can be incredibly tempting to spend most of that time in bed. But not only does this tend to make us feel unmotivated and lethargic, it can also disrupt our sleep schedules. We can do our mental health a lot of favors by rising when we wake up, making the bed, and not coming back to it until it’s time to go to sleep. We should try to avoid the habit of working, scrolling social media, or even watching TV in bed. By limiting our bedroom activities to sleep and sex, we help our brains associate the bed with relaxation, and we keep ourselves from falling into slumps throughout the day.
- Become a minimalist. Even if we get used to it, we don’t benefit much from being surrounded by clutter. Since our mental and emotional states are highly influenced by the state of our physical space. it’s a good idea to pick up after ourselves and keep our living spaces as neat and orderly as possible. For the sake of your wellbeing, think about how you can keep things tidy in your home, and regularly sweep your place to collect unnecessary stuff that you can put away, donate, repurpose, recycle, or toss out.
- Prioritize presence and connection. Even under non-pandemic circumstances, your home should be your safe space, your sanctuary—the place where you can relax, slow down, tune in to yourself, and connect with the people you love. One important way to make home a haven is to be sure that your physical space, and your daily routines, allow you to be present to yourself and the others in your home. Set limits on TV and phone time; set up spaces that are centered around connection; create designated areas for movement, spiritual practice, or other rituals that help you tune in to yourself. By making small adjustments, your home can become a place where you can be at home with yourself—no matter what might be happening in the world outside your door.