Hygge part 10 - three tips to create a feeling of sanctuary wherever you are

Spend a little time on the net and it probably won’t be too long before you find loads of articles on how to create a feeling of sanctuary in any given room in your home and, like much of what you see on the net, these articles vary in quality.  Some are very informative, others are just thinly-disguised adverts full of affiliate links.  Funnily enough, what I’ve noticed is that very few of them actually say what they think a sanctuary is.  Perhaps they think it’s obvious but if there’s one important lesson I’ve learned over the course of my life, it’s that what’s obvious to one person may not be at all obvious to another.  Perhaps they think, if need be, we can all look at a dictionary, which defines a sanctuary as a safe space.  Well my definition of a sanctuary is a bit different.  For me a sanctuary is a place which helps to promote positive thoughts and although it may well be easier to promote positivity when we feel safe than when we feel unsafe, if we’re honest, I’m sure we can all think about plenty of safe places where we don’t necessarily feel particularly positive.  In my opinion, there are 3 elements to any space which all need to be present for it to be classed as a sanctuary.

Good flow

For the record here, I’m not talking about Feng Shui, I don’t know enough about that to have an opinion either way.  I’m talking in straightforward practical terms.  You want a space to be organized so that it works for you and your needs, wants and preferences, rather than someone else’s aims.  Work places can be inadvertently made stressful because they are often designed around the needs and wants of finance, facilities and IT and therefore tick all the “health and safety” boxes but don’t adapt to the individuality of the person using them.  Supermarkets, large stores and shopping centres can be hugely stressful because they are deliberately designed to make it very difficult for a person to leave without buying something.  Frankly this can be less about encouraging the desired behaviour as about bullying people into compliance (in my opinion at any rate).

Good flow is different from lack of clutter.  While it’s important to be able to find what you need or want easily to maintain flow, clutter, or otherwise, is a lifestyle preference.  Personally, I think the ideal is what I call “curated clutter”, which is what I aim for myself.  Basically it’s clutter which actually brings me joy and is where I find the balance between the simplicity of minimalism and the cosiness of hygge.  That, however, is me, everyone can and should do what works for them.

Connection to the elements, nature and the senses

While these are all different, they’re also very closely linked so I’ve put them together.  The elements are earth, air, fire and water.  Nature is, for want of a better term, the organic, living world which is shared by animals and birds and fish and insects and plants.  The senses are sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.  These are, in my opinion, the most fundamental parts of human life and the places where we are most stressed are often places where we are cut off from the elements and the natural world and have minimal to no stimulus for our senses or, worse still, where our senses are actively bombarded.  For example, in the UK at least, some kinds of commercial building still use fluorescent lights even though by this point in time the many problems associated with them are well documented.  What I, personally, find really sad is that these days, many of the organizations in charge of managing public areas are so risk averse that they bring in sweeping rules to deal with relatively minor issues.  For example some people have hay fever which is triggered by pollen, so workplaces ban all plants including foliage plants, succulents and air plants, none of which will trigger allergies.  Having said that, many public places, including work places, which, I suspect are places where many of us spend a large chunk of our time, do offer at least some scope to personalize your work space and if you’re looking for a way to make it more inviting then a good place to start is seeing what you can do to improve the connection between your space and the elements, nature and the senses.  Many of the tips on how to create a sense of sanctuary in a space actually revolve around this.  Just do what you can with your budget and your rules, for example, plants may be forbidden but a good picture of one could still be a lot better than nothing.

Personalized triggers for positive thoughts.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “vicious circle”, which basically refers to a continually-perpetuating cycle of negativity.  Well it’s opposite is a “virtuous circle”, which is when positivity brings further positivity.  So, when you’re feeling negative, you basically have two choices, one is to keep focusing on the negativity and the other is to focus on resparking your positivity and one of the most practical ways to do the latter is to make sure that you always have access to reminders of situations which made you feel really good about yourself and/or the world around you.  That way, when you’re feeling blue, you can easily remind yourself of better times.  In the modern world, one of the easiest ways to do this is to keep photos on your phone, so they are always with you and if they’re actually on your phone, you’ll have access to them regardless of whether or not you can get online.

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