What brings you comfort? What helps you feel a sense of calm, and allows your heart to open up to the peace and love around you? When the world gets a little crazy – as it so often does! – what helps you stay grounded and at ease?
It’s Saturday afternoon here, and my husband has taken our youngest out to run errands and enjoy some play time. It’s so peaceful here today, it’s heavenly. The only sounds around me are the soft hum of a fan, the tick-tock of the clock, and the low buzz of the refrigerator motor. I could literally hear a pin drop. And I love it.
It’s unusual for me to get alone time like this over the weekend, so this is a special treat. The peace and solitude is so restorative (though I understand it would be absolute torture for some). It heals me.
Add to that, I’m nursing a mildly strained back and neck, so I’m giving myself permission to be still and not worry about the dishes in the sink or the sheets that need changing. They can wait. This time is for me. And it is glorious.
So what do I choose to do with this time? I sit in my comfy brown armchair, the one that is so comfy that at times I am challenged to stay awake in it. I draw, I meditate, I do a little catch up on social media (but not too much because that will snatch up all of my peaceful calm and send my anxiety soaring), I eat left over birthday cake and sip my beloved coffee (hot, lightly sweetened, with whole milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon and cardamom). (Yes. Yes, I know. I should be making healthier choices, but chocolate and coffee are divine together. And it’s the last piece of cake. I will do better tomorrow.) And I’m working on my beloved blog. These are the things that make me feel the most like me. They make me feel good. Comforted. At peace. In flow.
A Collection of Comforts
For me, comfort is found in quiet, simple moments. A quick Google search reveals that for many of us that’s true, with things ranging from threadbare flannel pajamas to fatty foods making the list of most-comforting-things. And for others, financial security and reading the newspaper (really?) soothe the soul.
Did you ever stop and really think about where you find comfort? I don’t believe I ever did in the past, I just moved toward whatever pulled me in without much thought. As I become more mindful though, I find myself recognizing “this is comfort” when it appears in my life.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that I’ve found most easily and reliably bring me the greatest comfort.
1. Surrounding Myself with Familiarity
Familiarity brings me great comfort. I like feeling well-oriented, and having a strong sense of the locale and culture that I’m in. Much to my husband’s chagrin, this means that I gravitate toward visiting the same places again and again. I like shopping at the same stores, eating at restaurants that I know well, and vacationing in just a handful of places. Yes, exploration and adventure has a place in my life, too, but not in a post about comfort!
Familiarity feels safe, and safe feels oh, so comforting.
2. Savoring the Details
I love it when I can take in – and have the time and space to fully experience and process – the fine details of something. This seems a little counter-intuitive to me, because as someone who often struggles with anxiety, it feels like a lot of detail should set off my overwhelm and send me spiraling downward. But it has the exact opposite effect. It seems that experiencing detail – taking in all the color, texture, shape, movement, sounds and smells that an experience has to offer – helps me be fully present to the moment I’m in and when that happens, anxiety can’t take root in my body.
3. Drinking Hot Coffee
Oh, how I love my coffee. I enjoy it both hot and cold, but it’s only hot coffee that brings me comfort. There’s something so calming about holding that warm cup with both hands and sipping it, especially when I manage to do so when I’m all alone in the early morning hours.
It’s important to note here, that if you’re a coffee enthusiast like me who reaches for a cup o’ Joe a few times a day, you should really consider switching to decaffeinated. Too much caffeine and your cup o’ comfort will turn into a cup of jangling jitters that rattles your nerves, raises your heartbeat and disturbs your whole body.
Do you remember the old “Calgon, take me away” advertisements? I’ve never been much of a bath person (maybe I just need a better tub?) but drawing can completely “take me away”. More often than not, I find my best comfort in just drawing with pen and paper. There’s something very soothing about letting the creative process take over, and letting the very rational and calculated part of my brain rest. Drawing has taught me to trust myself in new and unexpected ways, and I think it’s also expanded my capacity for courage and risk taking.
5. Basking in Peacefulness
For me, peacefulness is characterized by the absence of discord and intrusive noises. It doesn’t have to be quiet. The beach is incredibly peaceful and really never offers silence. But as an HSP, intrusive sounds grind on my nerves like nothing else, and I have a startle reflex that probably belongs on America’s Funniest Home Videos (is that even still a thing?).
Now my husband was born and raised a city boy. All his life – until he married me – he lived in major metropolitan areas (New Delhi, India and New York City, NY, USA). For him, I think peacefulness is characterized by the familiar (and formerly constant) hum of city traffic peppered with honking horns and distant sirens. The peace that I find in suburbia often feels like deafening silence to him.
Peacefulness is an incredibly subjective experience.
6. Knowing that My Loved Ones Are Content
There are moments when I can see – and feel – that my children, my husband, or others in my extended circle of loved ones are content, and that brings my heart such great peace and comfort. For in those moments, however fleeting, we can release all worry and just be grateful – joyful even – for the gift of contentment. I SO wish I could create this experience, but it is completely beyond my control. So the best I can do is be aware, recognize it when it appears, and allow myself the opportunity to be fully present in those moments with a full and thankful heart.
I’m about as introverted as they come, and am also a deeply feeling thinker…so I have a lot to say. Writing allows me to articulate my thoughts in a way that comes very naturally to me. Writing feels good to me; it’s creative, empowering, expressive and productive. It’s a fantastic relief, and it can be a great comfort.
8. Smelling Warmth
You know that smell that baseboard heaters make when they’re first turned on after having been off for the summer? That is the smell of comfort for me. It stirs up feelings of warmth, safety, and peaceful refuge for me, and brings me such comfort. This is one that I generally only get to savor once a year, which makes it all the more special. And yes. I know. It’s just the smell of dust particles burning off, but still, it is incredibly comforting. The smell of campfires is similarly soothing.
9. Being Body Aware
I hold tension in my body like nobody’s business. If I am stressed (even mildly), I tense up in my face, neck shoulders, arms and chest. During especially challenging times, I even experience shallow breathing and heart palpitations. I used to carry all of this tension around mindlessly, hardly aware that I was doing it and then wondering why I felt achy and exhausted.
Over time, I’ve developed better awareness of my body, and am much quicker to notice if I’m holding stress anywhere. I can quickly scan and through mindful attention of each muscle group, I can begin to release tension and relax myself. Having this ability enables me to feel more in control of my well being, and that sense of empowerment is very comforting.
10. Practicing Deep Breathing
When I find myself feeling tense or ill-at-ease about anything, one of the fastest and easiest ways to comfort myself and return to center is by taking several deep, cleansing breaths. I breathe in slowly, filling my lungs as much as I comfortably can, hold for a moment, and then out slowly and completely. It takes just a minute or two to calm and comfort myself this way.
11. Visiting Mother Ocean
Being in nature is always comforting to me, but nothing compares to the ocean for soothing my soul and comforting me, mind, body and spirit. There’s something about the sounds, the smell, the feel of the wind and salt spray, and the beautiful sights; they always bring me peace.
12. Being in the Presence of Animals
I love animals, and have always felt a meaningful connection with them. Did you ever look into an animal’s eyes and feel almost as if you’ve had a very deep conversation with them, or that you somehow just understood each other? It’s amazing how we can connect and communicate across species. And there’s something strangely comforting in that, too.
13. Being of Service
If you want to feel good, and to find comfort in your own actions, be of service to someone else. Hold a door. Make eye contact and smile. Extend a helping hand without seeking anything in return. Offer a sincere complement. Show interest. Volunteer. Share your knowledge, wisdom or experience. Be generous with your heart and your time. It’s always a comfort to know that you’ve been of service to someone else and somehow made their day a little bit better.
14. Getting Organized
If things feel out of control and you feel a need to restore your sense of empowerment and effective control, pick one isolated thing and organize it. It can be your closet, the refrigerator, your glove compartment, junk drawer, your purse, or that mountainous pile of papers that needs to be sorted and filed. When your discomfort stems from feeling out of control, organizing just one thing can help you turn things around, and step back into the comfort of feeling in control.
I know. I keep bringing this up ( here and here ) but it’s with good reason. We needn’t go over it again here. But seriously, if you aren’t meditating yet, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. It will change your life. Really.
We Need to Be Comforted
In this day and age, everything moves extremely quickly. We are expected to be plugged in and online around the clock. Information is constantly changing, stories evolving, and truth becoming evermore elusive. We’re overextended, overstimulated, disconnected and often, badly worn out. Anxiety and depression are becoming alarmingly common, and the importance of self care is too often overlooked.
We need to know what comforts us, so that when the going gets tough, we can seek out calming rituals that bring us comfort and peace. We can’t necessarily control what happens to us, and we certainly can’t control world events and the like, but we can and we must accept accountability for recognizing when we’re in need of comfort, and then seeking that comfort out. It’s the loving thing to do, not only for yourself, but for everyone you live and work with, and everyone who cares for you too.
What Brings You Comfort?
The things that can bring us comfort are as numerous and varied as we are. Do you know what comforts you? What do you go to when you need to sooth yourself and create calm within? Share your favorite comforters (pictures would be fantastic!) in the comments. Your share just might inspire someone to look at something in a new way or to add your suggestion to their own comfy-cozy toolbox. Thanks for taking the chance.