Creating Indoor Sanctuary Spaces

Growing up in Connecticut, I lived on an 8 acre horse farm and we were always encouraged to be outside even if I was just reading my book. Now I live in a cute little ranch style house with a screened-in back patio, (which is what made me over look the age and condition of the rest of the home and the lack of usable backyard space, when we signed our lease 3 years ago). I enjoy going out there with my cats almost every day, but it wasn’t always like this.

I have lived in my fair share of dorm rooms, volunteer shelters when I worked in AmeriCorps, and the unbearable one bedroom 3rd floor condo with my boyfriend when I first moved to Maryland. What made that condo unbearable to me was the idea of not having a private outdoor space to enjoy. I felt like my skin would start itching and my feet start tapping. However, it dawned on me at some point that my need for “being outside” wasn’t really always about being outdoors. To me, the outdoors is a sanctuary, a calming, enjoyable space that feels refreshing to my mind and body. To others it isn’t as much. And since I had just moved in with someone for the first time, what I realized was that I really needed my own personal sanctuary space that would foster that same feeling, but indoors so that it was accessible year round.

Soon after that I created a little nook in the corner of our room. It had an alter that I set up with statues and stones I had brought back from my studies in India, a thangka (aTibetan Buddhist painting on cotton and silk appliqué, depicting dieties, symbols or scenes) and a comfortable place to sit next to the window. It was minimal but effective in giving me a sense of myself. 

That was 9 years ago and since then we have lived in 4 other homes.  After all the moving around in my life I have become pretty creative with making a personal space, even when there is not much room to work with. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I think this is a great time for everyone to consider whether they have a personal space and how they can create one. So, here is what I have learned.

The first step is to decide the type of spot you want to create. As I see it, there are two types:

  • Power Spot – think energizing, uplifting, invigorating - Marie Kondo says that you should embrace the things that make you happy with pride and confidence and use those to create a power spot.

My running medal rack - my biggest source of pride courage

  • Reflection Spot – picture calming, quiet and nurturing - A place to unwind; reading, meditating, yoga, knitting, whatever brings you joy and peace.

A sweet reading spot seen in a house for sale in Maui, Hawaii

Now this isn’t to say that these cannot be combined. I, personally, have taken aspects of both of those categories and tied them into my space. And if crafting or kick boxing is your passion; makes you happy and confident and also helps you unwind, then that may be your combo space.

Once you have decided what type of space you would like to have, its time to design it. While each space is personal to the owner, there is a formula to the creation.

  • Choose your color wisely.  Colors matter!  Depending on the use of your space, you will want to utilize different hues. Warm colors (red, orange and yellow) are energizing, positive, and passionate. Cool colors (blue, green and purple) are more peaceful and balanced.  Navy blue was just determined the world's most relaxing color! Green goes a little of both ways, bright green can be energizing, great for creativity and brain power i.e. reading and craft rooms.  Light green is often coupled with pale blue in yoga, massage and therapy rooms.  Purple which is located between blue and red on the color wheel has a great combination of both, leading it to be a romantic and whimsical color.  Your neutrals (black, brown, grey, white) can carry mystery and sophistication, however can also be stark and generic. For personalization I wouldn't recommend sticking only with neutrals., but using them to compliment color. Joanna Gaines, star of HGTV's Fixer Upper, says that "committing to color in a small area is also a lot less risky than having to repaint a whole house", so go bold!
  • Bring the outside in. If you can, place potted plants or flowers in your space. There are numerous mental and physical benefits gained from having greenery in your home. Taking care of plants teaches you compassion and empathy towards others, and also eases anxiety and depression. Research concludes that even the sight of plants can bring these feelings. Furthermore the oxygen released and carbon dioxide removed by plants can keep your home and inhabitants healthy. helping your body to heal faster, sleep better, stay focused, be productive and more.[1]
  • Sit facing a window or perpendicular to it. For many of the same reasons discussed above that bringing plant life into your space is beneficial, so is having an accessible window. You will have the added benefit of being able to open it for your senses to grasp the outdoors – sights, sounds, breeze, warmth, coolness, smells, etc. You can also gaze off and daydream when you need a break. If you are creating an office space or something with an electronic screen, a window is particularly important to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A few of the outdoor my also entice you to get up and go for a walk or step outside for a it. And the natural light will illuminate your room for added radiance and energy. (This was very crucial during my condo days).
  • Carve out a space for your hobby. If you enjoy reading, add comfortable and cozy seating with pillows and blankets and whatever else you need to snuggle up with your book and fade away. Enjoy yoga? Make sure the space is large enough for your mat and pose extension. If you like crafting, set up your own craft corner or table that you could store and work on your projects.
  • Surround yourself with things that you love. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.  If this space is your personal spot, then it should be able you.  Some of the things that come to mind are pictures of family, friends, or places you have visited. If you are a collector, then you should have those.  A friend of mine said she collect snow globes, so I would expect her globes to be displayed in her favorite spot for her to always see.
  • Ensure there is space for company, if desired. While this space is made to be yours, to bring you the feelings of comfort you need, our friends and family are also what and who we love. And we may want them to be able to experience our space. If you have kids, they may want to crawl up into your reading chair with you sometimes, or stretch out next to you when you are doing yoga. Instead of  pushing them away, embrace their need to be close to you and your mutual love for each other as it will make you feel even more powerful and confident.  Our fur family is no different. They often want to be with us for hours out of the day, so giving them a spot in your space. This will ease their minds and yours as well.

The picture above is my personal space. It has a reading nook piled with pillows, my bookshelf with stories, mementos and pictures from my life, as well as some artificial flowers because unfortunately my cats will eat real ones. A window to my front yard is just out of the scene. I can stretch out of the floor in the morning and usually have a furry companion while I do so. My favorite color is purple, so I have that and different complimenting colors to foster creativity, peace and power. Since we rent, I can not paint the walls, so unfortunately they are still white. Having spent 20 years competitively running, one of the recent additions is a place to hang my medals. I only just recently moved those from our television room that we had decorated in a sports theme. I had always had them in my space in previous homes and my space didn’t feel quite complete without them, but now, I truly feel that this room reflects me. It is calming when I need it to be, as well as providing me with confidence and energy from my past accomplishments and future goals.

And now that we finally have an outdoor area, I have made the patio more of my reflection spot, filled with the items that calm and sooth me. But that is for my discussion of outdoor spaces for next time!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pictures. My sister created the peaceful spot seen below, left, for herself to read her Reiki and other books after moving in with her fiancé and feeling some of the same things I had experienced. Yet soon after she enjoyed her spot, so did her dog Pacha. Now it is Pacha’s favorite space to sit, just as my cats love to snooze on my reading ottoman, whether I am in the room or not.

Do you have a personal sanctuary space in your home? A power spot, reflection spot or something else? I would love to know what’s in it!