London - The “mindful” revolution rolls on — and for its followers there seems to be no end to its soothing, restorative qualities.
The evidence is compelling. Mindfulness-based meditation can reduce depression by 44 percent, according to an Oxford University report, while the Mental Health Foundation estimates that 30 percent of GPs send their stressed-out patients for mindfulness treatment of one kind or another.
TV personality Ruby Wax swears by it and her recently published book, Sane New World, tells you why.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that the craving for all things mindful is now knocking on new doors in the form of The Mindful Home, written by two Australians, Craig and Deirdre Hassed, who believe that our houses are “metaphors for finding ourselves — finding the core of our being”.
This might sound a little earnest for those of us who spend a frustrating amount of time looking not for ourselves, but for our missing car keys, reading glasses, unpaid bills and magazine cuttings about how to roast the perfect leg of lamb.
But few of us would refute the notion that atmosphere is important.
“It is not that the physical attributes of the home don’t matter, just that they arise from the subtle human qualities of the people living there,” say the authors.
“Get the subtle stuff right and the physical form will follow.”
High on the list of mindful essentials in the home, according to the Hasseds, is a room suited for daily meditation, which can also double up as a quiet zone; a reflective space that is neat, clean and unthreatening.
“Having a room that looks out to a view, green space or water can be conducive to meditation. If the outlook is not naturally beautiful, then you can decorate the room to make it greener or more appealing.”
This space doesn’t have to be empty of furniture but it “helps if it is not cluttered,” say the authors. The clutter conundrum is as much about what’s happening in our heads as in those brimming cupboards. The Hasseds believe that holding on to things that are no longer useful and are not especially beautiful leads to clutter.
“At its worst, this is called hoarding and can lead to the whole home environment becoming unusable,” they say.
Mindfulness derives from the Buddhist tradition but in the West its roots go back to the American academic Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose teachings are used to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. Using the senses to engage with the present is one hallmark; self-control, feelings and sensations is another; encouraging openness, curiosity, acceptance and being non-judgmental is a third; stillness is a fourth.
“This can easily be applied to the home,” says Tamara Russell, director of the Mindfulness Centre of Excellence and author of Mindfulness In Motion. “Rather than just thinking about the physical aesthetic, stop and ask yourself how a room makes you feel. Is it calming?”
Russell suggests moving furniture around every now and again to change the atmosphere and then measure your responses.
“Mindfulness must be tailored to the individual, but at the heart of any scheme is light and warmth,” said Natalia Miyar, design director of Helen Green Design. “Natural light is the most important consideration in the home; bringing the outside in during summer and maximising the light in winter.”
Miyar adds that surrounding yourself with familiar objects and photos which have meaning to you, or paintings of much loved places will bring peace of mind.
“But these should be used sparingly, otherwise they risk becoming clutter of the past,” she says.
Feng Shui, which was all the rage a decade ago is, according to Jane Alexander, author of Spirit Of The Home, making a comeback in the touchy-feely 2010s.
One common strand of mindfulness and Feng Shui is the pursuit of harmony. And, when it comes to the home, we could all do with a bit of that.