By Linda Moon Interview with Anthony Ashworth
Peace: Stress and pollution make it more important than ever that we find respite from the modern world in our homes
These tips will help transform your home into a haven that rejuvenates you after a stressful day.
Peace: Stress and pollution make it more important than ever that we find respite from the modern world in our homes.
Modern homes are generally far too masculine and have a lot of fire/yang energy that creates stress and anxiety,” says Anthony Ashworth, a consultant in Zen-inspired interior design and feng shui.
“Think of your home as more like a bowl than a box; as a place of ease and rest, and being, not doing.”
Minimise sharp edges, hard finishes and angular furniture, including glass tables and granite surfaces, which amplify stress, he says. Soften windows with curtains and choose furniture with rounded edges and softer materials.
Calm the senses Bring the aromas of the forest indoors with a potpourri of bark and leaves, or essential oils. “Promote a deep, restful mood with frankincense,” suggests aromatherapist Catherine Cervasio, who recommends rosemary for clarity and lemon to pep up energy.
Avoid artificial lighting that’s too harsh, bright or dark, and maximise natural light in your main living space.
Ashworth recommends earthy colours for calm: soft whites, natural browns and greens. Urban noise, the television and the hum of fluorescent lighting and appliances can be stress-inducing. “Ensure all appliances are as quiet as you can afford,” Ashworth advises. Mask unpleasant sounds with an indoor fountain or music that mimics nature. Nurture connection Studies show that hard furniture, or heavy furniture that doesn’t move or is lined side by side against walls, can hinder social interaction. Encourage companionship with comfy, movable furniture configured in circles or semi-circles. Open-plan kitchens enable communication while cooking, the modern version of gathering at the hearth.
Warm indoor temperatures foster social interaction, according to research published in Psychological Science. Declutter Clutter saps our mental resources, leading to potential for greater stress. Peter Walsh, author of Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?, also believes it can make us overweight. He blames clutter and obesity on loss of personal control and a culture that encourages instant gratification and the consumption of more than we need.
Walsh has a simple decluttering recipe: go through every room methodically, and ditch anything you haven’t used in the past year or don’t love with a passion. List everything you need for the house and don’t buy anything else. Don’t let stuff rule you: do you really want piles of old newspapers on the kitchen table?
Think natural In alpine areas, beds made of stone pine are said to improve sleep quality.
A study by Austria’s Human Research Institute reported that sleeping in a stone pine bed could reduce heart rate and induce a more restful sleep, greater sense of wellbeing and higher extroversion. Flavonoids in the pine’s essential oils are thought to be responsible. Natural materials link us to nature, says Ashworth. Choose wood, stone, bamboo and paper rather than plastic, and pieces that age gracefully. “It’s all about how your home feels rather than how it looks,” he says. “More than 90 per cent of everything we find in the home is manufactured,” says Nicole Bijlsma, author of Healthy Home, Healthy Family. She warns that many chemicals found in the home are unregulated and toxic to human health. Bijlsma’s strategy is “less is best”. Avoid pesticides, chemical cleaners, plastics and artificial fragrances. Open windows to air the house, and use damp microfibre cloths for cleaning.
Set the scene Those without a pleasant outlook needn’t lament: pictures of nature also elicit calm, according to studies by Roger Ulrich, an architecture professor at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology. Hide a brick wall with displays of leafy branches, indoor plants or a nature-themed screen.And keep washing or paperwork out of view – it can cause stress.
Give peace a chance
Ashworth recommends dedicating a small space as a “peace” zone to retreat to when life overwhelms you. Reflect tranquility with an inspirational painting, spiritual emblem, candle or positive affirmations. It’s a reminder that home is where our inner harmony resides.