Psychologist and interior designer Mollie Kohn explains how to instill mindfulness into your home.
Mindfulness, put simply, refers to being present and aware of how you are feeling, what you are doing and of your surroundings. This is important now more than ever as we’re facing new types of stress and challenges we’ve never dealt with before. Not only are we worried for the health and safety of ourselves and our families, we’re juggling work (a lot of us from home), house chores, and parenting, with schooling thrown in for good measure. This new way of living will naturally affect our mental health in different ways.
As an interior designer and a psychologist, one of my main areas of focus is understanding what people want to get out of life and help them develop a home environment that will support it. In normal circumstances, our homes are our sanctuaries. They are the place we can refresh and find peace.
This has never been more important as the usual dynamic of our home has changed – it’s become our office, daycare, school, restaurant, café, library, cinema and still, our sanctuary for self care, family bonding or fun with housemates. It’s important now more than ever to define our “work spaces” versus our “leisure spaces” in our home as they’ve quickly become interchangeable.
Luckily, if there’s one thing we have working for us right now, it’s time. Time to reset, time to reflect and time to create a space we enjoy living in. Creating a more mindful home will help us find greater peace in this “new normal”.
Here are some easy tips to get you started:
Define your intention
Intention is key to mindfulness. How do you want to feel in your home, right now? At this moment, this feels obvious – because our home has become our only space for every aspect of our lives, our intention should be to create a harmonious environment that we feel relaxed in, no matter the task for the day. The time is now to carve out our ideal multi-living space. Negatives aside, consider this as an opportunity to adjust your space, set new routines and instill good habits for the future, whatever that may be.
Consider what is getting in the way of realising your ideal space. Are all those toys ruining the zen of your would-be workspace? Set aside some time and space and define what it is you’d like to change. If, for example, you want to convert a child’s bedroom into a home office, what’s getting in the way of realising this?
Start with something small and manageable. Clear away items (like toys) you’d like to remove, use storage boxes to pack things away and build from there. Designate this space as your work space, making it a “play-free” zone that you can use to focus without distractions.
It’s crucial to distinguish our spaces from each other so that when the working day is complete, you can unwind in a relaxing environment and shut off mentally. Another easy way to do this if you don’t have a dedicated (or make-shift) home office is to physically pack away all work-related items as soon as you clock off so that you can enjoy time off without a reminder of work sitting on the kitchen table.
Out with the clutter
It’s no surprise people are currently feeling claustrophobic about clutter – there’s an endless to-do list and it only gets worse by the day. One way to have a more mindful life, is removing the clutter by finding a place for the things in your home. Now that we’re finding ourselves fixed in the same space for most of the day, the time is now to make our space more comfortable and hit the reset button on our home environment.
Get your Marie Kondo hat on and find a home for all those bits and bobs that are scattered throughout your space. It may take time, so get your household family or flat-mates on-board and make it fun. Once everything has a home, commit to putting them back in their new spot after use. While this may seem like a chore initially, it will quickly become routine and free you from clutter, creating a more mindful space.
Use technology to help with organisation
Technology is a great way for people to become more mindful at home. It also transforms what can be more mundane, for example building a calendar for chores, into a fun task that can bring the household together.
At the centre of my home is Amazon’s Echo Show 8, which is powered by the ever-helpful and welcomed voice of Alexa. Alexa keeps me on track by setting routines that suit my lifestyle, like waking me up with a mindfulness talk track to start the day right. Alexa also keeps a communal shopping list for my family – a major time saver when trying to coordinate our weekly online shop so we get everything we need – even toilet paper! I also use our Echo Show 8 as my sous chef in the kitchen! Alexa finds me recipe inspiration, gives me tips and acts as a timer so I never forget the roast is in the oven.
My daily routines aside, I’m finding that my clients are taking fewer breaks since working from home. Through the power of Alexa, we can find more balance in our day by setting reminders to take breaks whether that’s to get up and make a cup of tea or practice a meditation using one of the many Skills available through your device.
Reducing my stress by using technology helps me to refocus on the important things in life and maintain a sense of calm in my home.
Use colour to reflect what you want out of a space
Our vision plays a significant role in our mood, and believe it or not, colour plays a big role in this. Try asking about favourite colours next time you are on a Zoom chat with friends, and you will quickly find that people have a very strong opinion about colour.
In the context of mindfulness, colours can alter our moods by inspiring calm and improving focus. Soft greens bring about focus and clarity, making them a perfect choice for a home office or study. Softer shades of pink are found to be quite relaxing, so could work for a bedroom or bathroom.
This doesn’t have to mean painting your home office green, simple splashes of colour through plants, a statement bowl or a rug can do the trick just nicely. You can also use your Echo Show 8 to connect to different types of smart lighting, which can result in a dynamic space that changes colour to suit (or inspire) your mood.
Redefine your use of time
The biggest roadblock people report when thinking about living more mindfully is time. We can use our current environment to make use of the extra time we’d normally spend commuting or socialising and allocate it to defining your intention, decluttering, creating your plan, and developing healthy routines that transform your space and therefore your mindset. Being more mindful means that you choose how to react to tasks, ordering what needs to happen versus what you want to happen.
For example, you may need to complete a task for work, but you’d rather be tending to your garden. I would allow myself two hours on my laptop to get work done, and then go into the garden. This allows me to get an essential task done, and move on without being worried that I still have something else to do.
Now more than ever, it’s essential we give ourselves the time we need to do the things we want so we don’t feel burdened by other nagging things, like work or household chores. By carving out our time, we also create boundaries within our day, which promotes better mental health in this time of isolation and inevitable monotony.
–Mollie Kohn started Mollie Kohn Interiors after leaving her corporate role, to help people make anywhere they are living into a home they love. She has both a Masters in Psychology and a Diploma in Interior Design and Decoration.