Have more energy, be productive, and reduce stress: These aspirations may sound like the (perhaps unfulfilled) goals you set for yourself every new year. But what if resetting the space around you could help you achieve them?
According to the governing principles of feng shui, the ancient art of Chinese space alignment, rejuvenating your life can be as simple as moving things around. Do you find yourself feeling more stressed or anxious when your home is a mess? According to feng shui philosophy, that’s because there is a direct relationship between your space and the way you feel when you’re in it.
“There’s a Chinese concept that everything is filled with chi, or with energy, [and] the chi is going through the space,” says R.D. Chin, a feng shui architect in New York City. “You want to have it go in a nice smooth fashion — as easy as possible.”
First and foremost, Chin recommends open spaces to encourage the chi, or positive energy flow, to fill your home in a way that best supports you. This can done by paying attention to your space and what makes you feel good or bad when you’re in it.
“I think feng shui is much more of a universal human philosophy and the Chinese happened to create words for it,” Chin explains. “We all have spaces. We have our bedroom space, we have our office, we have our apartment, we have New York City, wherever we live — that affects us.”
We sat down with R.D. Chin to discuss his expert feng shui tips, from proper bed placement to decluttering your work environment, to create zen for the New Year.
1. Clear Your Clutter
Sometimes having too many material things in a space can clutter our minds and create an overwhelming feeling of having too much to do. Clearing out the space or organizing it will help reduce feelings of stress and promote positive energy flow.
“The flow of energy is about having it feel easy to move around from room to room. It feels good,” says Chin. “You don’t want to be tripping over your clothes or stuff to get into a room.”
Cleaning up your laundry and putting things back in their place after using them will help you feel less overwhelmed, both in your physical and mental space, so you can finally stop worrying about what’s next on your to-do list.
2. Make Use of Natural Light
Natural light provides measurable health benefits, such as boosting levels of vitamin D, reducing seasonal depression, and improving sleep. In addition to its health and mood-enhancing benefits, light is an essential component of good feng shui because it’s considered an energy source. Since feng shui is all about the chi, or flow of energy, the more natural light, the better.
Recent research, published in September 2018 in Harvard Business Review, surveyed over 1,600 North American employees and found that natural light and views of the outdoors were considered the top office perks, outranking perks like on-site cafeterias and fitness centers. The study also found that 47 percent of employees admitted to feeling tired due to the absence of natural light in their office. So open those windows, let the light in, and get that energy flowing.
3. Bring Nature Indoors
Bringing potted plants into a space does more than make a room Instagram-ready. According to Chin, bringing nature inside is the founding principle of feng shui. As a matter of fact, feng translates to wind and shui translates to water. Therefore, feng shui seeks to create the calming feeling of nature, and having plants indoors is one of the best ways to do so.
“Orchids, bamboo, it could be any plant — just bring some green energy into the space,” says Chin. “They enhance the flow of energy or chi to enjoy the space.”
If you have a bare room, try adding a plant to the mix to bring a grounding energy into your space. If you lack a green thumb (hey, no judgement), faux plants can also be a great option.
4. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
Your bedroom should have a restorative energy and be your favorite place to go at the end of a long day. Chin recommends utilizing spa-like practices in the bedroom, such as soft lighting, aromatherapy, plants, salt lamps, and noise machines.
“Create an environment that’s very peaceful, or create an environment that really nurtures your soul,” he explains.
According to Chin, the placement of furniture in the bedroom merits careful consideration. It is ideal to have a bed situated so you are looking towards the door, though it is thought to be bad luck to have a bed placed so that your feet point directly out the door.
Chin also advises his clients to avoid putting large mirrors in the bedroom. In feng shui, large mirrors are thought to create too much energy and prevent restful sleep in the bedroom.
Chin’s advice to couples sharing a bedroom is to have matching end tables on each side of the bed. Matching end tables are thought to create a sense of harmony and balance in a couple’s relationship.
“Try to keep your bedroom as simple as possible — a couple of these nice elements would be really helpful,” Chin says.
5. Separate Your Home and Work Environment
The way you feel at home should be entirely opposite of the way you feel at work. The division of where you work and where you rest is important to pay attention to in feng shui because they have different energy flows. Chin relates the different energies of work and home to the Chinese principles of yin and yang.
“Your home energy I would categorize as more of a yin — much more quiet; this is where you want to relax and let go of the things you do during the day,” says Chin. “[Whereas] the office is a much more yang energy — a lot of activities going on; you have your computers, meetings, and lots of walking around.”
If you happen to work from home, try to separate a place in your home where you work and a place in your home where you go for comfort and relaxation.
6. Get Rid of Electronics in the Bedroom
Reiterating the importance of a peaceful place of rest, you should try your best to keep electronic devices like phones and laptops out of the bedroom. Using electronic devices that emit blue light before going to bed can prevent you from having a restful sleep.
A new study published in December 2018 in the Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering found that the blue light emitted by smartphone screens throws the body’s circadian rhythm out of whack and reduces levels of melatonin. Even worse, research published in February 2018 in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences linked night exposure to blue light with an increased risk of developing breast and prostate cancer.
“By not having these electronics in the bedroom, at least you’re trying to separate the different energies,” says Chin. “The bedroom is really [a place] to rejuvenate your soul and calm yourself. Try to have no TVs, computers, or phones in the bedroom as much as possible.”
If you can’t help but look at screens at nightime, try to avoid looking at bright screens a few hours before going to bed.
7. Hang Artwork that is Multidimensional
There are lots of different ways to use artwork to encourage good feng shui. If a work of art speaks to you, then incorporate it into your feng shui–suited decor. Remember, what you put in your space should make you feel good.
Chin recommends hanging photographs of nature in your space, or artwork that allows you to look into a distance. “Paintings with layers or a horizon will help reduce stress. It also helps soften the space.”
8. Work in a Commanding Position
A fundamental principle of feng shui is to never have your back to the door, especially when you work. According to Chin, this belief stems from ancient times, when it was considered dangerous to have your back to a doorway. Chin recommends working in a “commanding position” — a position in which you can observe everything in front of you.
“Find a desk where you can see everything in front of you and not have too many people coming from behind you. When you’re in a position where you can see everything, you feel a bit more in control,” he explains. “Your focus and attention will be much better.”
Chin also highly recommends adding natural elements, like plants and crystals, to your work space. Natural elements will help bring grounding energy to a place that has more of an intense “fire” energy.
9. Create a Quiet Space
According to one of Chin’s predictions for the upcoming new year, 2019 will be full of fire energy. Fire energy is the most powerful energy, associated primarily with yang and masculinity. Chin attributes his prediction to the political climate and intensity of the 24/7 news cycle. His greatest recommendation for everyone in the new year is to create quiet time away from all of the buzz.
“Create a quiet time for yourself, even for 5 to 10 minutes, or whatever you can do. If you can, [try to] be in nature, and don’t turn on your phone.” A quiet place for yourself can be anywhere: a room in your home, a place in the city, somewhere in nature, or anywhere you feel like you can just take a breath.
“We’re just trying to balance ourselves amid all of this stuff that’s surrounding us,” says Chin. “That’s what feng shui is: It’s a balancing act.”