While many folks make New Year’s resolutions that revolve around getting a better bod, others choose to look inward and seek ways to find joy and inner peace through meditation and mindfulness.
And experts agree that it’s important to de-stress after the holidays.
“Take a deep, cleansing breath and re-experience the little things as you go through your day,” says former Buddhist monk-turned-psychotherapist and author Donald Altman, who, along with local design team Twice As Nice Interiors in East Islip, offer creative solutions toward achieving a Zen lifestyle and bringing that relaxed vibe into indoor and outdoor spaces.
Escape for a while and find tranquility at home by creating a peaceful sanctuary away from the concrete jungle of New York City. Infusing your surroundings with positive energy and calming, Zen-inspired design is easy… and therapeutic.
“Creating a Zen environment either inside or outdoors should be first and foremost, clutter free,” says Twice As Nice Interiors owner Mary Middlemiss. “If creating a space outdoors, pathways lined in greenery and rocks leading up to a quiet space with a water feature are always good ideas. Adding a swing is an extra bonus!
She offers guidelines while designing our interior spaces.
“Use colors that represent nature,” she says. “Keep it as natural as possible. Textiles that are light and soft are important. Natural light is key.
“Keep furniture to a minimum but also consider using natural wood or stone products,” she continues. “Today’s furniture industry has changed so much, with too many products being produced in China with toxic chemicals and fibers. We are a green company and are very careful with our design selections.”
She adds: “Lastly, we always encourage our clients to enhance your space with a natural oils scent through a diffuser to not only add freshness, but calm and balance.”
HGTV DOES ZEN
Entrepreneur, hip-hop mogul, and best-selling author Russell Simmons believes the most fundamental key to success is meditation. His Manhattan townhouse – featured in HGTV’s episode about Zen-inspired homes – reflects his devotion to yoga and Eastern philosophies in its unique décor and design. Emmy® Award-winning actress Jaime Pressley’s home reveals Asian art and statues of Buddha set against neutral colors. In another episode, designer Genevieve Gorder transforms a boring backyard into a relaxing, Asian-style retreat.
Altman, who’s had years of clinical experience, says his approach with clients then, and with his books and workshops now, is simple.
To cultivate a more Zen approach at home or work, he suggests decorating with tranquil, pleasant, and meaningful objects.
“Objects from our past can have a calming effect and will help you get into the present moment,” he explains. “Photos of loved ones, a family keepsake, religious icon, and even the symbol of a favorite hobby or sports team can invite a feeling of peace and joy. In my own office, I have the baseball glove I used as a teen. It reminds me of my history and something pleasant from my life.”
Altman says that looking for that wholeness within is a journey for everyone.
“When I had the opportunity to ordain in a monastery headed by a well-known teaching monk, I got some immediate lessons on how the mind works,” he shares. “That’s because in a monastery you don’t get distracted by computers, phones, TV, and a million other things that keep you from watching the mind!”
Fortunately, one need not enter a monastery to discover that pearl. Altman’s books, 101 Mindful Ways to Build Resilience and One-Minute Mindfulness, are filled with quick, effective practices for gaining clarity, emotional regulation, de-stressing, and accessing the here and now.
“Who wants to live in fear?” he asks. “We are meant to find joy, to find light. That means understanding that stress and suffering is universal. Once we know that, we can recognize that the antidote is love and compassion.”
He adds, “And gratitude is in all my books because it’s such a powerful medicine for overcoming negative emotions and cultivating connection with others.”