Well-being at home : candles and mindfulness
By Georgia Whitehead, Founder of Positively Calm.
It’s a cold rainy day, you’ve been so busy with work and your other responsibilities that you are exhausted and feeling fed up. You spot your favourite candle perched on the side out of the corner of your eye and a warm, comforting sensation rushes over your body. You get a hot shower, get changed into your snuggliest pyjamas and light the candle. You settle down on the couch, everything is better now.
In my early twenties, after struggling with mild depression for a while, I stumbled upon a book about Mindfulness; A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams & Danny Penman. I had never heard of it before and really had no idea what I was about to learn. Until that point, I felt I really had no control over my mental health and my daily happiness, and life kind of just happened to me. I turned the pages and started to read about the concept of mindfulness.
After a couple of chapters, I remember vividly the feeling of hope that I felt, reading the words of these individuals I’d previously never heard of, explaining to me how to create calm in my daily life and that it really can be quite easy, with practise. By exercising mindfulness, you can create peace for yourself at any moment in your day. This would change how I live going forward.
I’ve been incorporating mindfulness into my life ever since and I have found it to be the number one driver behind managing my mental health, reducing my stress levels, aiding decision making and much more. I feel passionate about sharing this knowledge with other people and as a vehicle for this, I decided to set up my business, Positively Calm.
Through Positively Calm I help people access peace and stillness within their busy, often stressful lives. I share daily mindful insights and also tranquil nature photography with my Instagram community (@positivelycalm_) and I have created and hand poured a luxury range of clean burning, Soy Candles, in four soothing scents, available in my Etsy shop.
Candles play a huge part in my mindfulness practice. There is something so magical about the whole experience, from striking a match and witnessing the ignition and crackle of the flame, to holding it against the wick and waiting for it to catch. Every single one of your senses is awakened in this moment, with the smell of the extinguished match closely followed by the gently melting scented wax, the soft sound of the wick burning down, and the heat of the flame warming your face. It’s a pause in time, a moment in the present. It’s exactly what mindfulness looks to create, a pull into the here and now. Grounded in the present, the once noisy thoughts that you were struggling with just wash away.
Candles play an important role within many different religions, cultures and in literature. They are symbols for hope, faith and persistence and are used worldwide to represent light in the face of adversity. They are a symbol of romance and are often used to create a loving, romantic atmosphere. They are also a symbol of life after death and will often be lit in memoriam of people we have lost, signifying that the spirit still lives on after the physical body has died.
They are a fundamental inclusion within the Danish concept of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Hygge originates from a Norwegian word meaning well-being. It is a way of living that celebrates taking pleasure from soothing things, and candles are a central part in the practice. Meik Wiking, writer of best-selling book “The little book of Hygge”, studies happiness for a living at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. In the book mentioned above, Meik shares that when Danes are asked what they most associate with Hygge, an overwhelming 85% will mention candles. Candles are burned all around the home, in cafés and restaurants and even in the workplace. They are used to light the room in such a way that it creates a warm, cosy atmosphere and brings you into the present moment, to slow down and enjoy the company of your loved ones and the shelter of the space you’re in. Denmark consistently ranks amongst the happiest countries in the world, and their love for Hygge and candles are an intrinsic part of this. I would really recommend this book if you are interested in learning how to incorporate more Hygge into your life.
Another practice in which candles are used is the Yogic method of meditation named Trataka, which involves staring at a single point of focus, often the flame of a candle. Trataka is a Sanskrit word, meaning “to look” or “to gaze”.
You would engage in this practice by turning down the lights in a room and lighting a candle. Place the candle one metre away from you and at your eye level. Take a few deep slow breaths and let your body relax, releasing tension from anywhere you might be holding it. Then focus your gaze on the flame of the candle and concentrate on watching it move and flicker. When your mind starts to wander, use the flame to draw your attention back to it. Meditate here until you are ready to come out of the practice.
Trataka or Yogic gazing is said to energize the third eye chakra, which is associated with wisdom and intuition. It also has many other benefits which include strengthening the eye muscles, improving concentration, calming the mind and relieving insomnia – amongst others.
Evidently there are so many uses for the humble candle, that date back for thousands of years and so it’s no surprise that we still love them so much today. I believe that candles make a house feel like a home. They provide you with moments or extended periods of calm and stillness, as well as the warm glow of the flickering flame and the lingering scent that floods the room.
My hope is that after reading this, you will be drawn to your favourite candle and use it to initiate a quiet, calm moment, just for you.