Our stress levels these days are pretty high even if we put a brave face on how we feel.

Fears about COVID and questions about when we’ll get the vaccine are just the tip of the anxiety iceberg.

News headlines, the economy, jobs, and more are creating concerns in a cold and snowy season that already brings its own set of challenges each year.

But enough about what’s causing us stress.

Let’s focus on the power of embracing rituals that are naturally enjoyed best in cozy, hopefully warm, and tidy interiors.

These lifestyle enhancements—which may center on comfort factors like tea, coffee, wine, old movies—help realign your mindset, improve your energy levels, and inspire positive feelings even amid the trying times.

The author Elizabeth Gilbert, who grew up in Litchfield, sums up the benefits of rituals in a her best-selling book “Eat, Pray, Love.”

“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”

While she’s referring to the large-scale rituals of cultures, her words also apply to the small comfort rituals we can carry out in domestic interiors to help our living spaces feel more like havens for “joyful” contemplation, rather than places of confinement because the world outside is just too cold and scary right now.

Our fears are valid, but so is embracing hope. Nudging yourself over to the right side of the equation isn’t a matter of putting on rose-colored glasses. That’s simplistic and ineffective.

Instead, a positive mindset comes from achieving true change and growth in your life, as well as balance and equilibrium, and rituals are one important part of this process.

One thing that helps me relax and enjoy my home sanctuary is a cup of tea. I shared a recipe in a video on Facebook for a tea that will help with immunity and create heat in the body, which we all need this time of year, and it’s absolutely delicious.

You may not enjoy tea, but the same body, mind, and soul enrichment comes from other rituals like making great pour-over coffee, or in a French press pot, or savoring a favorite wine. Combine any of those with reading quietly, watching a good movie, or sitting by the fire and the dividends increase exponentially.

It’s important to mention the importance of having clean and tidy living spaces as backdrops for those rituals. Otherwise they won’t actually provide the comfort you’re seeking.

Try having afternoon tea or coffee at a table piled with mail and bills, days-old newspapers and unread magazines, for example. Instead of feeling serene and enjoying the flavor of your preferred beverage, your brain will focus on the implied accusations in what’s piled up in front of you.

The mess and chaos you see in the house is powerfully symbolic of untidiness in your lifestyle—and that always leads to stress.

Don’t delay in embracing winter rituals, but also don’t delay in addressing any clutter in your home and lifestyle that’s holding you back. (See my blog post on 5 Simple Steps for Sparking Joy in 2021)

You can achieve both despite the restrictions created by the COVID pandemic.

Those who need professional help in the decluttering journey can turn to me for inspiration and hands-on guidance through virtual sessions together. See my Packages & Rates page for details, email me at  christine@sageofinteriorsllc.com, or give me a call at (203) 772-8883.

I’ll leave you with a quote from another famous writer with a local connection, Dani Shapiro, who lives in Bethlehem with her husband and son.

“I am devoted to my husband and son. I am devoted to the practices and rituals that imbue our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose, that help me to live my days in the most emotionally and intellectually productive manner. I am devoted to the idea of devotion itself.”