Making Your Home a Paradise

Do you have fantasies about where you’d like to live someday? Maybe it’s a beautiful little seaside town in the south of France or a log home in the mountains of Denver. Fortunately, you can have a bit of your dream right now, where you live today, without uprooting your life!

Although it’s important to strive toward making your dreams a reality, you’ll live a happier existence in the meantime if you work to create your own paradise wherever you live.

Try some of these tips to ensure you’re living your best life in the here-and-now:

  1. Accept where you’re living. Whether you’re in a one-bedroom apartment or your great aunt’s condo downtown, for now, you’re calling it home. This is your own bit of paradise for today. Tell yourself that you’re okay living where you live because it’s simply a stepping stone that will lead you to the place you want to eventually be.
  2. Set the mood. Do you wish to lift your spirits and energy level when you walk in the door? If so, decorate with brighter colored textiles in furniture, upholstery, and curtains. Have splashes of vivid art on the walls.
    • If you prefer to set a calm and tranquil tone in your own little heaven, use calmer colors like sage greens, beige, and mocha to present a more serene picture when you enter the room.
    • No matter where you live, you can set the mood you want most by painting your walls and using evocative colors.
  3. Consider options for your comfort. Do you want different furniture pieces to make your space fit you better or be more comfortable? Maybe you need a more efficient desk to sit at when you’re working at home. Perhaps different lighting fixtures would help.
    • The key to creating your sanctuary is to set up each room exactly how you want it. This can be done on a budget, too. You don’t have to invest a fortune to create the look and feel that you desire. Consignment shops and thrift stores can be great sources for inexpensive items for your new look.
  4. Learn to love the home you have. Find specific aspects of your space that bring you joy and contentment. Maybe it’s the way the sun streams in the east window of the kitchen in the mornings. Or perhaps you enjoy the open layout between the kitchen, dining, and living room areas. Notice and take full advantage of what you do like about your home.
  5. Check out design websites, apps, and books for décor ideas. Look for inspiration such as furniture arrangement, carefully placed treasures, wall colors, and use of textiles to obtain the look and feel you want. Recognize that regardless of the size and location of your home, there are countless ways to alter it to suit your tastes and introduce the qualities you want.

Show some love to yourself and your home by creating a sanctuary right where you live now. With just a few simple changes and a fresh perspective, you can have your own paradise no matter where you live!

Interior Design Techniques That Reduce Stress

The way we design our home and work environments can have a dramatic impact on our stress levels and emotions. Learn to make your surroundings more peaceful and calming so you feel at ease all day long. Here are some decorating ideas that will soothe all of your senses.

Visual Techniques 

  1. Opt for warm colors. Warm colors tend to advance toward your eye to create a more intimate feel. Colors have different degrees of warmth, depending on the shade you pick. Warm colors will help to heat up adjoining cool colors. This means you can include any of your favorite colors as long as you pick the right shades and coordinate carefully.
  2. Get organized. Clearing away clutter will instantly make any space look more serene. Plus, it won’t cost you a penny! Return everything to its proper place. Sell or donate stuff you no longer use.

  3. Layer your lighting. Take advantage of as much natural light as you can get. Trade in your harsh overhead lights and high wattage bulbs for a variety of floor and table lamps that provide a softer effect. Mirrors will also brighten things up.

  4. Work with the space you’ve got. If you need to tie together a big area, consider decorating with patterns. A striped couch will make your living room look cozier. On the other hand, when you’re trying to feel less cramped, select furniture with legs and cutouts and clear tops to maximize your air space.

Sound Effects

  1. Get a water fountain. The sound of running water has appealed to people for centuries. You can even get desktop fountains for your office or solar powered versions for your garden if you want something environmentally friendly.
  2. Put up chimes. Try hanging a few on your back porch. If you prefer bird song, put out a feeder. You’ll get serenaded every morning.
  3. Play digital files. Wherever you live or travel, you can now access pleasant sounds with your laptop or any media player. Browse online or buy a CD full of recordings of falling rain, splashing waves, or the natural music of the Florida Everglades.

Scent Appeal

  1. Pick up a diffuser. Diffuser kits with natural reeds will disperse scent for months. That way you can avoid the safety risks of leaving burning candles unattended.
  2. Rely on traditional scents. Oils like lavender, chamomile and sandalwood are old favorites because they work well for calming the mind. If you have a green thumb, try some living herbs. Lavender is easy to grow yourself and requires little maintenance. Just cut a few sprigs and take them indoors whenever you need to bring freshness to a room.
  3. Experiment with new fragrances. If you want more variety, shop around for new oils. Neroli is becoming increasingly popular. This fragrance is produced from Bitter Orange blossoms and has a subtle but complex flowery aroma.

Textural Elements

  1. Put something unusual on the walls. There’s more to wall art than framed paintings and photographs. Try an unusual object that will make you want to touch it, like a twisted rubber sculpture.
  2. Pay attention to your bedding. You spend about a third of your life sleeping, so turn your bed into a comfort zone. Stock up on feather beds, soft flannel sheets and plush comforters.
  3. Use accent pieces to add interest. Unusual and inexpensive accent pieces can add textural interest to any room. Knit your own throw blanket for a sofa or make small pillows covered in soft velvet or chenille.

Transform your home and office with design choices that will help you breathe easier and reduce your stress levels. Especially if you’re coping with a demanding schedule, create rooms that accommodate all your senses and help you feel composed. This will bring you peace not only at home, but everywhere you go.

Take the Stress Out of Holiday Travel

If you believe the lyrics to “Jingle Bells,” people used to laugh all the way during their holiday travels. Today, getting to grandma’s house may be a little more complicated, but there are still ways you can make it less stressful.

Try these holiday travel tips and sample meditation to make your trip more enjoyable.

Stress-Free Holiday Traveling

  1. Give yourself plenty of extra time. Staying calm is easier when you give yourself plenty of lead time. Leave the house a little earlier than usual.
  2. Expect to run into snags. That extra time will come in handy if you miss a connecting flight. Keep an extra change of clothes with you in case some luggage gets lost.
  3. Pack light. If possible, ship your gifts directly to the recipients so you have fewer suitcases to wrangle. Get in the habit of using a single carry-on bag.
  4. Travel during off-peak hours. Early mornings, late nights, and the middle of the week may be less crowded. Shorter lines are a great way to reduce stress and weariness.
  5. Start out well rested. You can manage everything better after a full night’s rest. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep before your trip. Take an afternoon nap if you’ve got a late flight ahead.
  6. Bring healthy snacks. Skip the fast food at the airport. A protein bar or a bag of homemade trail mix with nuts and dry cereal will give you more nutrition and energy.

  7. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Take it easy with the free cocktails. Flying is dehydrating, so alcohol and caffeine aggravate the effects. They can also make it more difficult to meditate. Drink more water instead.
  8. Use portable meditation props. Airlines generally disapprove of lighting up incense but will welcome less intrusive props. Bring a string of wooden beads you can use for counting or load a favorite image onto your smart phone or tablet.

Sample Meditation for Holiday Travel

  1. Get into position. Sit up straight and relax your shoulders. Take deep breaths from your abdomen. Let distracting thoughts dissolve away as you focus on your breath.
  2. Think about your destination. Picture your destination and the loved ones you’ll be visiting. Mentally greet them and describe to yourself the good times you’ll share. Think about what’s for dinner and the gifts you’ll exchange.
  3. Expand your thoughts to those around you. Remember that you’re surrounded by people making similar plans. Think about all you have in common. Make believe that you’re all sharing a loving and joyous celebration.
  4. Focus on your new holiday mood. Once you’re feeling relaxed and happy, let go of the details and rest your mind in that warm feeling. If other thoughts begin to interfere, retrace your steps to bring that positive sensation back.
  5. Dedicate your good feelings. Pretend you can wrap up those good feelings in a box and present them to everyone around you. Pay special attention to those who may be experiencing less fortunate circumstances.

  6. Gradually return your attention to the present moment. Bring yourself out of meditation slowly. Take notice of your body and the objects around you while trying to keep a relaxed mind.

  7. Remind yourself of the fellowship you felt while meditating. There may still be lost luggage or missed connections ahead. When you encounter a hitch in your plans, think about how good you felt while meditating and use those thoughts to maintain your composure.

Holiday travel can be challenging, but you can make it easier on yourself. Plan ahead and use simple meditations to lift your spirits and enjoy more peace of mind.

Reduce Your Holiday Stress

As the holiday season approaches, your stress level will probably rise. In addition to your typical schedule of work, home and kids, you’ve got more shopping to do, menus to plan, and food to prepare. The good news is, even with all the extra activities and preparations, you can still reduce your holiday stress.

Here are some proven strategies to help you decrease your stress. Some of these may even be so effective that you’ll choose to use them all year long, not just during the holidays!

  1. Acknowledge that everything doesn’t need to be perfect. The commercials and movies on television during the holidays really miss the mark when it comes to realistic portrayals of family holidays.
    • Accept that you can enjoy some beautiful holiday get-togethers regardless of whether something is spilled or you’re having trouble locating your favorite dinner napkins.
    • Furthermore, most people will hardly notice if the pies were baked a little too long or you forgot the cranberry sauce.
  2. Start holiday planning and preparations earlier. Can you imagine how much less stressed you’d feel if you had all your gift shopping and wrapping done in October?
    • Also, plan your holiday menus well in advance of using them. This way, you’ll have the menu set and the store lists made. As the holidays get closer, review your menus and shopping lists and make any minor adjustments you want.
    • Spreading holiday tasks out over longer periods of time means you’ll have less stress during the holiday season.
  3. Scale down your holiday plans. Because adults sometimes have an overly idealistic view of the holidays that springs from their childhood experiences, this strategy can be tough to do. Scaling down your plans involves letting go of your “perfect dream” for the holidays.
    • Essentially, know that you don’t have to repeat that special holiday memory you have in your mind. You don’t have to find the perfect gift, spend the most money or have a room stacked with wrapped packages to show your love to others.
    • Ascribe to the theory that, “It’s the thought that counts.” Most people will never remember the cool thing you got for them that one year. But they will have warm memories of the time you spent together as a family.
  4. Take shortcuts to save time. Figure out easier ways to do things that will provide more time for other holiday tasks and activities.
    • One good example: Rather than baking the pies, order them from a nearby restaurant that’s known for its delicious baked goods.
    • When shopping, don’t be afraid to select gift cards as holiday gifts. The fact is that many people prefer receiving a gift card as they can then choose exactly what they want. Gift cards are easy to shop for, satisfy nearly everyone and will cost you less in wrapping paper. Basically, gift cards are “no fuss and no muss.”
  5. Choose what you want to do. Ponder what the holidays truly mean to you and then express that meaning in your celebrations. Avoid getting caught up in the commercialism that has taken over the entire holiday season.
    • Some would say “it’s all about the shopping.” However, it’s worth your time to think about what ideas you hope to portray to your friends and loved ones during the holidays.
    • Let go of feeling required to plan and carry out elaborate, lavish celebrations. Maybe you’d really rather have smaller, more intimate gatherings with friends spread out over a month or two, rather than a big whoop-de-doo that makes it difficult to really connect with others.
    • The best way to teach your children that the holidays are about giving to others is to take them to visit local charities or even to serve meals at a church soup kitchen.

This year, make the decision to reduce your holiday stress. By shedding the urge to be perfect, beginning holiday planning earlier, scaling down expectations, and using shortcuts to save time, you’ll bring your tension level way down.

Think about what you really want the holidays to mean to you and your family. Then, you can let go of expectations based on the past and really enjoy your time together. And ultimately, isn’t that what the holidays are for?

The Zen Habit of Stillness

You probably have friends and acquaintances who are always rushing about and complaining about their lack of alone time. Maybe they don’t even say anything about it because they don’t know any other way to be. Every moment, they’re busy. Maybe you’re one of them.

If you examine the lives of overly busy people, you’ll probably find that they’re not contented, happy people. There’s always so much to do and so little time. Perhaps you’re reading this because you feel rushed yourself and want to slow down and reap the benefits of being still.

Two Kinds of Stillness

You can be quiet in body and quiet in mind. Both are important. Being still physically saves you a lot of energy and effort. You feel less exhausted by the end of the day. Mental quietness has a similar effect on your psychological, intellectual, and emotional energy.

All you have to do to achieve stillness of body is to finish your chores and then relax. Even while you’re completing your tasks, you can conserve energy by using little movement. To get an idea of how to do this, just watch a monk in action. Or notice how a cat relaxes.

Stillness of mind is more challenging to achieve. However, this kind of quietness is much more critical to overall contentment. 

How do you feel when you get some shocking news? How about when you finally reach your target at work, win an award, or find yourself suddenly in a crisis? You feel a rush of adrenaline and you’re off, letting off steam in a gush of emotion, words or action.

So if this is such a natural response to big changes, why do you need to cultivate stillness? When you’re in the middle, when you’re centered, you can see both ends of the spectrum.

When you refrain from reacting in an extreme way, you can control your response to the situation. You can be objective. Most importantly, you can learn from your circumstances and use them for self-development.

From another perspective, when you’ve cultivated internal quietness, you’re less likely to face extreme ups and downs.

Try these tips to develop a still mind:

  1. Stop. In an extreme situation, pull away from the circumstance for a moment. Take a deep breath before you react.
  2. Listen. Listen carefully to what’s being said. If your mind jumps the gun with words you feel compelled to speak, bring it back to the moment. Return your attention to what the other is saying.
  3. Think. Contemplate why you’re facing the situation. Did you play a part in creating it? Is the other simply mirroring you? Is there something you need to learn from this circumstance?

If you take these steps, you’ll be able to avoid overreacting or reacting negatively in haste. This means your response, if and when it does come, will be the right one for the circumstances and for you.

 The Importance of Silence 

Another way to develop mental stillness is to practice silence. Speak only when necessary. Speak only when you have something of consequence to say or something that will help the other.

Before you speak, examine your motivation for saying what you want to say. Is it to further the welfare of the other? Or is it to praise yourself or prove that you’re right and the other wrong? A need to always be right is the basis of much conflict.

Moreover, when you’re habitually silent, your words have more effect. People pay attention when you speak.

As you work toward greater self-awareness, try cultivating internal stillness. Just follow these guidelines as a start. As you practice, you’ll realize many rewards.