Research connects feelings of safety and rest at home with lower levels of stress hormones when out in the world.
Posted in , Jun 30, 2021
Among the many Jewish values that my family cites as central to our identity is shalom bayit, Hebrew for “peace in the home.” Whether we are making a decision about how to spend our summer vacation, what to do for dinner or how loud to keep the TV, we try to speak to each other in ways that support peace, mutual respect and kindness.
Like with so many principles that guide our lives, research has more to say about why peace-at-home as a value is beneficial. One study used linguistic analysis software to measure the word choices 60 women made when describing their homes on self-guided tours.
Women used words that either described their homes in terms of clutter or being “unfinished,” or in terms of being a restful, comfortable space. Researchers then measured cortisol, a principal stress hormone, in the participants. They discovered a lower cortisol level among the women who described their homes in positive, restorative terms and higher cortisol levels among those whose homes felt stress-filled and disorganized.
The results held true when the researchers controlled for marital happiness, underlying mood conditions and other factors.
Most of us have probably spent more time in our homes over the past year of pandemic than in many years prior. Understanding the connection between how we see our homes and how we feel emotionally can help us reset our relationships with our living spaces. Here are some ways to start.
1) Clear Clutter
Take a pass around the house and sort unwanted or unneeded things into “recycle,” “donate” and “throw away” piles. It can make a huge difference in helping us feel our living space in a new way.
2) Fix Broken Things
If something is awaiting repair, mending or replacement, now is the time to get that done. Having things you want to use but are unable to because they are broken not only wastes our space but also feels frustrating.
3) Play with Color
Color choices impact mood, in both energizing and relaxing directions. Paint your walls, pick up a simple accent pillow or get inexpensive placemats or towels that surround you with colors that support your emotional well-being.
4) Bring the Outdoors In
In the study, participants who described their homes in positive terms often did so using imagery from nature. Other research suggests that natural spaces stimulate the brain to relax and refresh. Even viewing a natural scene can have this effect, so load up on indoor plants or hang a poster or photograph of a nature scene that brings you joy.
How would you describe your home? Do you have what you need to experience shalom bayit in your space?