You know how absolutely incredible it feels to escape a noisy, odor-filled, visually overstimulating room and enter a soothing space that looks beautiful and smells wonderful? That’s because your senses affect your mood and well-being—which is why your home’s sights, smells, sounds, and textures are worth paying attention to, says Ev’Yan Whitney, a sexuality doula and the author of Sensual Self.
“Being able to make a space your sanctuary is so important,” says Whitney, who uses they/them pronouns. “When it comes to sensuality, it’s really all about being with your body, being with your senses, and being in the present moment.” By cultivating a sensual space in your home, they say, you can experience a huge benefit to your overall well-being. Here, Whitney shares some ways to make it happen.
Give yourself grace
Many of us have inherited ideas of what a home “should” look like, whether that’s an Instagram-perfect living room or a spotless kitchen. In the real world, though, dirty dishes happen and messes accumulate, yet lots of us feel guilty for not being on top of everything. That perfectionist attitude isn’t doing you any favors, Whitney says.
Here’s what does help: Removing some pressure. “Sometimes I know the laundry is piling up, and I should probably take care of it,” Whitney says. “But if I ask myself what I actually need in order to feel well-rested and renewed, oftentimes it’s not folding laundry—it’s laying flat on my back and breathing, watching some TV, or going outside for a walk.” Instead of punishing yourself for disarray, prioritize meeting your mental health.
When you’re ready to tackle projects, start small so you can give yourself a win. “A lot of us can only work in bite-sized pieces right now,” Whitney says. “It’s okay for that to be happening, given where we’re at in the world. You can come back to that task anytime, but it’s important to honor ourselves in the process.”
Prioritize your bedroom
If there’s one place where you can escape the noise and pressure of the outside world, your bedroom is it. “Your room deserves to be a place for you to rest and feel at ease,” Whitney says. “Think about it as a space where you can unfurl, be inspired, and have your senses be engaged.” They suggest asking yourself questions: How do I want to feel when I walk into my room? What sort of energy do I want this bedroom to inspire?
For instance, if you want to feel a sense of calm, you might enjoy feeling ultra-cozy fabrics like chenille, silk, or cashmere on the bed. “Maybe it’s about investing in a blanket that’s so soft, you want to cuddle in it,” Whitney says. “Or maybe that looks like having blackout curtains so you can cocoon yourself in the space.” You may also feel better without a bedroom TV or phone, which is a choice Whitney has made for their own bedroom. “It’s really changed the way that I see the space,” they say. “It also helps me to take care of my mental health because doom scrolling is not good.”
Follow your nose
Candles and diffusers are the most obvious ways to shape your mood through scent. (Think of how you feel energized when you smell citrus, for instance, and relaxed when lavender is in the air.) But even if you have a super-sensitive nose, as Whitney does, you can find little moments to use scent to enhance your senses. “It’s small things for me, like a light scented hand lotion before I go to bed,” Whitney says. “When I put on that lotion, I take a moment to notice the way my touch feels—having a moment with my body where I’m feeling that sensation can be a really beautiful experience.”
Adopt some plants
“Any room that I can put a house plant in, that just reminds me that there is life here,” Whitney says. “It’s also delightful to my senses to see flashes of green and flowers.” For an additional sensory reward, place a bouquet of fresh flowers in your home; they’ll look beautiful and smell gorgeous.
Consider your sounds
Many of us think about how our homes look, but we don’t always consider how they sound. “I typically have music playing in my home,” Whitney says. “I like to have my sense of hearing stimulated that way.” Of course, you may prefer silence—there’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s worth asking yourself what’s pleasing to your ears. After all, the more questions you ask about what makes for a happy home, the more answers you’ll find.
Photo of Ev’Yan Whitney: J Rei Photo.