In 2020, our homes have shifted from personal spaces to the centers of our universe. Rather than being simply places to rest our heads, they’ve become multipurpose destinations to work, learn, educate, and restore ourselves. But making these environments truly comforting takes more than additional throw pillows or reshuffling the furniture according to feng shui; it takes careful consideration of all the senses. Here, experts explain how to center the mind, body, and spirit by curating spaces and revolutionizing our daily routine...with a stylish tilt, of course.
Setting a positive tone for the day can begin with the smallest rituals. The bathroom sink is often the first stop in our a.m.routine, and the contents of our medicine cabinets can provide more than just a clear complexion.
“Skincare is actually based on the skin’s response to stress, whatever the stressor may be,” says neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez. “The ritual effect of skincare is calming by itself because it’s self-care, but certain ingredients [like lavender or chamomile] can help calm both the skin and the mind.” Even the action of exfoliation, like a quick buff with an aromatic body scrub or stimulating dry brush, can evoke the feeling of a fresh start. But finding a morning routine that brings focus isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s about curating your own personal oasis.
“You have to figure out what appeals to you from a sensory point of view,” says Hafeez. “A visual person may enjoy looking at fresh flowers, or an olfactory person might favor a candle or a cup of coffee. The right practice can wake you up or help you relax so you can be more productive.” To take your morning shower up a notch—no matter what sense you gravitate toward—hang a eucalyptus branch from your shower head or mist a stimulating spray into the water to turn your morning rinse into a spa-inspired steam session.
When your living room is both your movie theater and your home offce, your child’s preschool and nap pod, it can be tough to code switch. But Olivia Jezler, the founder of Future of Smell, says fragrance is a concrete way to invisibly alter a shared area.
“Your space is a reflection of you and your needs at that moment, but think about it as something that evolves: Throughout the day, there are elements that are accentuated versus detracted from,” says Jezler, whose company uses scent and technology to transform environments and experiences. “Given that we’ve been stuck in our homes more than ever, it’s an interesting way of modulating and changing the space around.”
Combining fragrance and function is an easy way to transform a room through each of its endless associations. Beautify acts of cleanliness. For example, rinse your clothes with rose-scented detergent or spritz on a woodsy hand sanitizer after a trip to the grocery store. Merge scent with design with an incense objet d’art. Or light a candle that takes your subconscious elsewhere: “Try adding a scented candle that transports you to a beach, nature, or a vacation,” Jezler suggests. “It will make your surroundings seem more exotic, change your mood, and help you travel emotionally.”
If your sleep/wake cycle feels off and your dreams have been feverishly intense, you’re not alone; don’t let the pressure to get centered drive you to distraction. “It can be helpful to strip away the attachment to falling asleep and the drama around tossing and turning,” says holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, who specializes in insomnia and anxiety. “We’re all stressed, as we’ve been battling a pandemic, so it’s okay that our unconscious needs a little extra time to process what we’re going through.”
That said, cultivating a dreamy environment in which to drift off can help you readjust. The human body is receptive to contextual cues, so give yourself a new set of glamorous rituals at the end of the day to help the brain understand that it’s bedtime. Think coating the body with decadent lotion or covering the eyes with a luxe silk mask.
“Associations really matter, so it’s about making thoughtful choices about what activities you do in bed,” says Vora. “Those things are what the brain is going to associate with that space. Create rituals that slow down the body and help you get into the right mindset for sleep.” Fragrance is a particularly powerful tool: Scents have a direct line to the limbic system, where our emotional states are determined, while sights and sounds have to take more of a journey through our conscious brain. Choose a scent that brings you peace—rose, white musk, or chamomile may do the trick—and set the mood with candles and hand creams. Those tireless sheep never stood a chance.
This story appears in the Fall 2020 issue of Marie Claire.