It’s that time of year again, when sparkling displays and nostalgic jingles light up every corner, but for many Americans, me included, these celebrated customs can bring on a sense of uneasiness. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the feel-good vibes of the season. I love gift-giving to others, and you probably won’t find a more extroverted introvert on the planet than me. But the truth is, our society has been operating on an over-stimulated autopilot for years, allowing the cultural norms of the holidays to spin out of control. Whether it’s hosting family gatherings, preparing for school functions, participating in gift exchanges, or mapping out shopping lists, the pressure to be high-performing this time of year can stir up unwanted levels of anxiety.
Luckily, living with an atypical, creative mind has taught me that most of life’s challenges can be overcome simply by crafting different choices for myself. After all, it’s the maker’s mantra to build something new out of something broken, even if it goes against the grain of the status quo. That’s why my new book, Designing For Wellness, encourages everyone to be active curators of their lives as a way to cultivate a new state of calm. The easiest place to start is in our personal spaces. So here they are—my top 5 practices, that anyone can implement, for creating a more serene and healthy holiday at home.
1. EMBRACE THE IMPERFECTIONS
Living by impossible ideals is a habit that keeps us from wellness. Spotless spaces and impeccable decorations make anyone feel like they can’t be themselves, which leads to unnecessary tension in our bodies and ultimately our relationships. If we truly care about creating a sense of ease and well-being, our settings need to tastefully feature the flaws rather than eliminate them. Try showcasing tables with distressed markings along with serving ware with less bling and more humility. The metaphorical message this design decision sends is authenticity is valued over opulence.
2. BRING THE OUTSIDE INSIDE
Choosing natural materials to surround us is a vital step toward calming the racing thoughts within us. Current research in wellness architecture consistently states that when human beings have direct contact with elements of the natural world, even within built environments, anxiety levels are actually reduced. One of the simplest ways to do this at home is by gathering organic discards from the landscapes nearby and staging them as decorative elements. Whether it’s tumbled driftwood from the beach, rugged branches from your backyard, or unusual rocks collected from a recent walk, nature-based materials can be assembled into Zen-like centerpieces and innately relieve tension for anyone who walks by.
3. DISCONNECT FROM THE NOISE
Every day, we’re subjected to an onslaught of sounds, whether it’s scanners at retail stores or commercials at the gas pump. It seems like everywhere we turn, we’re exposed to anything but silence. Consider this the next time you’re at a doctor’s office or a restaurant listening to blaring music and rowdy TV shows. Sometimes we need brain rest from unsolicited noise, especially when it continues to exist in our own homes. If you plan on hosting a holiday event this year, try removing the TV from view, offering soft, ambient music, and asking guests to leave their devices in a designated charging zone equipped with cords and outlets. You’ll be surprised at how such mindful design decisions like this can create new opportunities for meaningful conversations to take place.
4. OFFER SOMETHING INTERACTIVE
Provide people with opportunities to personalize their experience, and you’ll witness inspiring moments of personal growth. During the holidays, try initiating self-reflection through a different kind of tablescape. Starting with a steel napkin ring, place a magnetic Intention Block (engraved with a thoughtful word), on top and position at every place setting. Once everyone has started their dinner, ask your guests to share one thing for which they’re thankful as it relates to the word they were provided. It’s a fun tradition that often leads to humorous and even tearful moments. More importantly, it gives young people in the family an opportunity to practice speaking to a room full of adults. When the night is over, you can offer the magnetic Intention Block as a token gift of the meaningful evening everyone shared.
5. CURATE POSITIVITY
Everything in our world embodies energy with different degrees of receiving and radiating. Even the accents placed in our homes carry a vibration that can affect anyone who enters. Once we awaken to the impact our collectibles have on ourselves and others, we can learn to harness the power of our possessions to enhance well-being. Once we look inward, away from pushy trends, we can determine what we actually we stand for. Much like the people we meet in our lives, if a decorative element doesn’t generate a positive feeling, it doesn’t belong in our homes.
Susie Frazier is an acclaimed artist and product designer who lives with generalized anxiety and ADHD. She is the author of Designing For Wellness, a guide for creating calm through decorative choices we make at home. Visit her website.