Science continues to demonstrate a strong link between our environment and our health, with research showing that patients surrounded by soothing visuals, sounds, smells and textures have better outcomes. “The space we are in really contributes to our health and well-being,” says Amy Wing, Occupational Therapist, Essentia Health. “The more comforting and soothing a space is, the easier it is for people to focus on their healing.”
Based on this philosophy, the Miller-Dwan Foundation established a fund to help support the construction of a healing space in the Essentia Health hospital’s adult inpatient psychiatric unit. The new space, slated to be completed in late 2017, will be open, fresh and cheerful, taking advantage of natural light and the scenic views of Lake Superior. “Providing a healing environment is integral to the overall care we provide,” says Lainie Janke, Clinical Supervisor of Essentia Health Inpatient Behavioral Health. “Healing, by definition, means to make whole. All parts, including the environment, work together to create optimal healing for our patients.”
You don’t have to be a patient in a hospital to benefit from a healing space. In fact, creating one in your own home can be a matter of simply rearranging your surroundings, or including more natural elements. Here are five steps to help guide you in arranging your surroundings to foster good health.
1. Define the space
Spend some time identifying what makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. It could be a flowering plant, sentimental photo, or view form a window. Expand on this visual by incorporating a comfortable chair or plush rug in an area of your home that can be quiet when you wish. Then add objects that further enhance calm, serene feelings, such as a candle or scented oils, a cup of tea or cozy blanket.
Your healing space should be free of any objects that don’t make you feel happy. Move piles of magazines, paperwork, and books out of sight. Replace any artwork or photographs that cause stress with things that invoke peace and calm.
3. Invite nature in
Human beings respond positively to elements of nature like natural light, the sound of wind and the scent of pine. But that’s not to say your healing space can’t work if it doesn’t overlook the shores of Lake Superior. Incorporate a landscape or seascape painting or photograph, surround yourself with houseplants or cut flowers and use an essential oil spray to imbue the space with the scents of nature.
4. Use sounds that soothe
Sound is an important element in a healing space, so be sure to have a CD or MP3 player nearby. Choose sounds that resonate for you, whether it’s natural elements like a flowing stream or breaking wave, or soothing music like piano, harp or acoustic guitar.
5. Set the mood with lighting
Exposure to sunlight has been linked to uplifted moods. If possible, create your healing space in an area suffused with natural light. Alternatively, use lighting that mimics daylight, or place mirrors to reflect light from other areas in your home.
If you can’t designate a space in your home, consider other areas like a church, temple, museum, or even your favorite seat at the local coffee shop. The most important element of your personal healing space is you. No matter where it is, or what objects are there, be sure it includes only the sights, sounds, smells and textures that are meaningful to you. You know you will have it right when the space makes you feel more centered and grounded when you are there, as well as after you leave.