With the world on lockdown we get expert tips for upping your home's wellness quota
In these troubling times of Coronavirus-related isolation and remote working, where our travel is restricted and our anxiety is rising, we get some expert advice on creating a healthier, happier home.
Whether as a result of self-isolation, remote working, or both; it’s clear that - for the foreseeable future, at least - we’re all going to be spending a lot more time at home.
Thankfully, every house has the potential to support and nourish the people who live in it.
From armchair travelling and fragrances, to work areas and yoga spaces - read on for 13 expert tips to help transform your bricks and mortar into a self-care sanctuary.
Being light savvy in your home is important to boosting your 'happy hormone'
It’s pretty common knowledge that daylight equates to feeling good. Natural rays offer both a dose of vitamin D, as well as a boost of the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin. So, a home that lacks natural light is more likely to make us feel depressed and lethargic.
“Our bodies are designed to respond to the light we surround ourselves with,” explains Alex Roberts, head of product at Tint. “So if you can, harness natural light as much as possible.”
When it comes to artificial light, consider the function of the room - are you sleeping or working or relaxing?
"For spaces designed for relaxation, avoid cool LEDs and fluorescent lighting as this can heighten stress and affect your sleep,” continues Alex. “Instead, lean towards bulbs that give off a warm white light.”
Look towards nature for your home's colour palette
COLOUR YOURSELF HAPPY
Given the longterm self-isolation that we’re facing, a fresh lick of paint on your walls may just be the ticket for an extra hit of at home pep. And when it comes to the colour palette, it pays to look towards nature.
“Colour psychology plays a big role in our lives and the most calming colour is green” says founder of Tennille Joy Interiors, Tennille Joy. “It’s proven to be less of a strain on the eye muscles, because the colour gets focused directly on the retina.”
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According to Feng Shui, the placement of furniture can impact our wellbeing
FENG SHUI YOUR FURNITURE
Don’t know your ‘shui’ from your ‘chi’? According to the ancient practice of Feng Shui, the placement of furniture and objects in our homes can have a serious impact on our personal wellbeing.
The best place to start is by clearing clutter. Not only can excess stuff cause feelings of stress, but - based on Fen Shui principles - it also results in stagnant ‘chi’ (energy). “Messy, chaotic spaces create the perfect cocktail for unfavourable outcomes,” says Wendy Grant, founder of Feng Shui Ism. “So make sure to remove tired or broken decor.”
In the bedroom, ensure the foot of the bed isn’t pointing towards the door as this is considered unlucky. “The quality of our sleep is even more vital should sickness set in,” continues Wendy. “Always keep bedrooms well ventilated and free of electronic devices.”
To avoid days slobbing on the sofa, maintaining a routine is key
STICK TO A ROUTINE
In these erratic times, structure is very important. To avoid the temptations of lazing in bed, or slobbing on a couch binging on Netflix, maintaining a routine is key.
“As humans, we find comfort in the rhythms and routines of life,” explains psychologist and co-founder of Transitioning Well, Dr Sarah Cotton. “Routines help guide our days and provide a sense of normalcy and control.”
Given that you’ll likely be working from home, it’s best to treat your working day like any other - albeit one where you barely leave the house. So, get up early, exercise, shower, get dressed, and then hit the desk.
“If you don’t have a schedule when you’re working from home, the risk is that you might procrastinate all day, or that you might end up working throughout the day and into the night without any breaks,” cautions resilience expert and CEO of Springfox, Stuart Taylor. “The key to protecting your mental health at this time is to have rhythm and ritual to your day.”
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Boost your immune system with exercise says Bachelor star, Sam Wood
CREATE A GYM ART HOME
With the very real prospect of getting sick, beefing up your immune system has never been more important and one surefire thing that can help is exercise.
“Despite what’s going on in the world, we need to remember that exercise is vital for our overall health and immune system,” says Sam Wood, founder of the 28 App.
Though most of us don’t have the space, or the bank balance to facilitate a fully decked out gym at home, the good news is that we don’t need much to ensure we stay in shape.
“You really don’t need a lot of money or space to create a comprehensive workout environment,” says Sam. “In fact, you don’t even need any equipment. When it comes to body weight exercises the options are endless.
"Pick somewhere you have enough room to lay an exercise mat down, and you’ve got yourself a home gym! If you want to add some resistance to your workouts, grab two cans of soup or tinned vegetables and use these as hand weights.”
Calm your mind and improve strength and flexibility with yoga
HIT THE MAT
Scary headlines and pandemic pandemonium translates to anxiety and stress. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to calm your mind and to improve strength and flexibility at the same time: yoga.
“It’s so important in this time of isolation, fear and uncertainty to ground ourselves every day,” says Duncan Peak, the founder of Australia’s biggest yoga school, Power Living.
Creating your own yoga space has been done by yogis for thousands of years and all you need is a dedicated, mat-sized area to practice with somewhere to put your laptop or iPhone so you can take advantage of the array of online classes available, such as Yogaholics.
“Physically, a home practice is best done as soon as you wake up,” continues Duncan. “To awaken the body, keep joints healthy, and charge up our energy for the day ahead. It also gives us a chance to get connected mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Meaning we bring life into perspective each morning.”
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Create a clutter-free, organised work space
WORK TOWARDS WELLNESS
If you’ve never worked from home before, getting into the groove can be tough and bad habits - lie-ins, staying in your PJs, and forgetting to clock off - are easy to fall into.
“Get up, shower and get dressed as if you were heading to the office as usual,” advises Jordy Lucas, founder of She Does This. “It's best to have a dedicated office space, somewhere separate from the usual goings on in the house. You'll be more productive if you have a space that is only for work.”
Make sure to declutter your desk and to set up the space for longterm use, ensuring that it’s ergonomically sound and appropriately lit.
“Investing in ergonomic furniture that works to your body is essential to boost productivity,” says IKEA Australia’s home furnishing and retail design manager, Christine Gough. “Sit-stand desks are a great option that helps you change positions between sitting and standing. Also, make sure to keep your workspace organised as this will with concentration and enhance productivity. Making effective use of wall space is a helpful storage idea to keep desk and floor space clear.”
Lastly, remember to clearly define your work hours and to take regular breaks, be it a walk around the block, or some at home exercise (see above).
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Scents play a vital role in the physiological effects of stress
SMELL YOUR WAY TO SERENITY
An easy way to inject some extra Zen into your home environment is through scent. Be it a room spray, candle, incense or diffuser, the right fragrance can really help to induce a calm atmosphere.
“Scents play a vital role in the physiological effects of stress,” says Glasshouse Fragrances founder and CEO, Nicole Eckels. “They can help us to unwind, whilst also working to boost our energy levels and moods.”
Citrus scents, such as orange and lemon, have been shown to help boost energy and mental stimulation, whilst scents such as vanilla and jasmine have been proven to calm and help to relieve stress, whilst peppermint and cinnamon can uplift and elevate any mood.
“Lighting a candle can help to relieve anxiety and stress,” continues Nicole. “The flickering light works in partnership with the scent to engage the senses to bring a peaceful ambience to the room.”
During isolation connecting with others is paramount
Research shows that isolation is one of the biggest pitfalls we’ll face and reaching out to family, friends, and colleagues has never been more important.
“Physical isolation doesn't necessarily mean social isolation. Now more than ever, is a time to use technology to help you feel connected,” says mental health expert and program director of The Banksia Project, Jack Jones. “Post happy moments past and present on Instagram, share new music with friends on Spotify, FaceTime your family, and use apps like Zoom and Skype to enable workplace collaboration.”
Connecting and making time for your network is critical not just for adults, but for kids too. If your kids are younger, make sure to help them schedule video calls with their mates. And don’t forget to stay social with the members of your own household.
“Set yourself a time to stop and reconnect with your partner and children,” advises wellness expert and author, Andi Liew, andilew.com “Children love an emotional refuel. When you’re truly present, they feel it. The extra time with your kids is the silver lining to home schooling during this period. Make the most of it.”
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Scratch that wanderlust itch by planning your future globetrotting
BE AN ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER
Just because you can’t physically travel right now, it doesn’t mean you can’t live vicariously through travel memoirs, by crossing borders in your imagination, or by creating a travel wish list of the places you want to go post-virus.
“I have been creating some TripBoards on Pinterest and Stayz.com.au to plan my future holidays with family and friends once the time is right,” says head of PR at Stayz, Simone Scoppa. “Also, you can do virtual tours of some of the grandest museums in the world - all from your laptop!”
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Use your newfound time wisely by keeping your mind stimulated
EXPAND YOUR HOME HORIZONS
Changing your mindset about being ‘forced’ to stay at home can result in learning some life lessons (starting off with being able to slow down and ditch some of the self-imposed guilt that comes from not being busy) but also a new skill.
“Using the time wisely and think about keeping your mind stimulated,” says registered psychologist and Australian Association of Psychologists board member, Sahra O’Doherty. “Try learning a language or skill - there are great apps that you can download that can track your progress - or listen to Ted Talks where experts in a vast variety of areas can inspire you. Many institutions in Australia are offering free or discounted short courses for kids and for adults too.
“Whatever you do, be realistic and if you’ve set yourself a goal to learn something new, create some structure around it - have a routine, set small tasks to complete, and take breaks. Above all, be kind to yourself.”
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Turn your bathroom into an at home spa retreat
TRANSFORM YOUR BATHROOM INTO A SPA
The day spa may be your usual port of call for a bit of R&R, but your bathroom can be equally as indulgent - you just need some inspiration and a few products to turn into an at home spa retreat.
“Transforming your bathroom into a spa is easy,” says founder of Aurora Spa and ASPAR, Lyndall Mitchell. “There’s simple rituals that can take you from chaos to calm. Remember, while we can’t control most of what happens during the day, we can control of how we start it, and how we end it.”
With this in mind, Lyndall advises early ‘ritual’ aroma showers, inspired by the saunas of Finland and the sweat lodges of Native Americans. “Kickstart your morning shower by sprinkling 5-20 drops of essential oil on the shower floor, then turn the water on and inhale the energy boosting aroma. Spearmint, rosemary and cardamom all boost energy levels, while eucalyptus, pine and tea tree support your respiratory system.”
And in the evening, your bathroom can once again become wellbeing HQ via a long, indulgent soak. “Bathing helps create better circulation and relaxes your muscles so that you sleep better,” continues Lyndall. “Add epsom salts which help to replenish magnesium levels in the body, which often get depleted when we’re feeling stressed.”
Marketing manager of Young Living Australia - a world leading essential oil brand - Sindy Hardcastle, says that a good bath is all about ambiance. “Make sure the lighting is dim,” she advises. “And diffuse your favourite essential oil, or pop a few drops into your bath. Don’t forget to put on some soothing music - Spotify has some great spa tracks - and light calming candles to make sure you relax and unwind completely.
Whether you work your way through Enya’s ‘best of’ or ‘whale sounds’ on repeat, don’t forget to continue the pampering post-bath. “Have thick towels, and a fluffy robe ready for afterwards,” finishes Sindy. “Wear these while you apply a face mask and body lotion for the finishing touches.”
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Focus on turning your bedroom into a sanctuary made for slumber
Sleep deprivation not only affects our mood, but it can also affect our memory and health, which is why adequate rest and sleep is so important. In order to encourage enough sleep at home, focus on turning your bedroom into a sanctuary made for slumber. This means no TV or electronics, blackout blinds, soft lighting and your old faithful once again: essential oils.
“Take a few extra minutes before bed to diffuse some oils,” says Sindy. “Lavender is great for easing a troubled mind, and frankincense is another great option for a sublime slumber. But for peak relaxation, ask your partner to rub your back with clary sage essential oil mixed in with a carrier oil, like coconut oil. You’ll feel amazing afterwards and will sleep super-soundly!”