I can tell you this without question. I truly believe that true, life long health starts and is rooted firmly in the home. I also believe that the main reason we have so much ill health today is that we both spend too much time away from home, and when we are home, we are not using our homes to even close to their maximum ability and design.
As you may know, recently I moved back to Vancouver Canada, after spending the last 7 years travelling around Asia living for extended periods in many countries spanning the entire continent, and my longing for my blueprint of the optimal healthy home was a big part of that. As I travelled through Asia I learned many things regarding health, emotional control, lifestyle, yet I often found myself longing for a place to truly call home, a place where I could make my personal definition of a healthy home a reality, and for me that was returning to the west coast of Canada.
A number of factors influenced this decision; water, temperature, air quality, quality of living, quality of people, quality of business partners, quality of foods, quality of cooking and food storage, hobbies, and many more things. However, it was important to me that I also brought back the lessons and aspects of traditional Asian life that I feel we are needing and include that into my home and lifestyle. Whether through my studies in Chinese Feng Shui, or Indian Vaastu Shastra, introductions to religious practices like Buddhism, and Hinduism, practices like Indian and Buddhist meditation and Rusei Datton (Thai Yoga) through cultures like traditional Japanese, or even SE Asian daily living. But also combining it with my knowledge of the practical health/environment sciences like human movement, biophilic design, green design, and even simple chemistry and biology. And this is all refleceted in large parts within my home, which I truly believe is your emotional, physical and spiritual center.
One of the first things you need to realize is that your environments truly do reflect you and your current place in life. This is NOT some foo-foo talk here, this is literally objectionably obersvaetional. Have you ever met a person with a messy car? Food wrappers left all over the place. Open wrappers and garbage al over the seats and floor? Now, where they health freaks? Where they even what we could consider remotely healthy? Also, where they successful in their endeavours? A great job, financially secure? Did they dress well? Probably not. Most of these people, and I have known A LOT in my time (I was even one of them once, be it not to the level I've often seen) tended to have no real goals or passions they are working towards, work part time at best, or work in jobs that one would consider pretty low level. The car was a reflection of them. Chaotic, messy, not caring, and I can promise you their houses are the same.
Another kind of person I see quite often is the clutter bug, or the collector of everything. These people are the kind that never throw anything away as they "may need it one day". This person I have found tends to be pessimistic on the future, or feel like they cannot control the future outcomes, and live in a constant fear of being out of money, so they keep everything for that inevitable day where they are out of a job. They tend to be stuck in a rut, often depressed, and let the clutter in their homes literally take away their energy.
However, many times the home doesn't need to be this easy to read to still be not a home of health. In fact I would say many homes are not cluttered, not dirty, not messy and are not easily readable. But they are still not even close to optimal for helping us achieve our maximum life goals in health, career, community, and passion. For many, a home is just a place to live, or a place to escape the outdoor world, a place to "hang their hat", but your home van be SO MUCH MORE! It SHOULD BE so much more. And after this article, I hope you can MAKE IT SO MUCH MORE.
Your Home needs to be
A place to relax and escape
A place to recover and destress
A place to reach maximum health
A place to feel energized
A place to be welcoming
A place to create stronger bonds
A place to develop and strengthen passions
A place to achieve your dreams
So, in short a lot more than a place to drop down, watch TV, shower, slam out a frozen dinner, crash out and repeat daily.
So, how do we go about creating a home that can do all of this even regardless of size?
Develop Your Qi (chi)/ Prana
In both Feng Shui and its even older predecessor Indian Vastu, we discuss energy, in Chinese it's referred to as Qi, and in Indian in Prana. This Qi or life energy has both literal and psychological aspects. Have you ever walked into a place that just feels right, feels comfortable, and uplifting? That's Qi. On the flip side, you can think about a place that you've walked into and instantly felt off or your did'nt like the vibe. That's Qi, just not good Qi.
Qi is literal in the sence that we are talking about physical aspects of the nature of the building. Is the air free to move? Does it move too fast (windy), or is it stagnant like a room with no air flow? Or does it seem to move well and comfortably? That's Qi.
Light also plays a HUGE part. getting in natural sunlight is so important. It makes colors pop, it wakes up our brain, it helps to show the natural beauty of your special items, and it just makes you feel more happy and alive! I can tell you, there is a HUGE difference in peoples moods in Vancouver when the sun comes out. It's like a vale has been lifted, they smile more, nod as they walks by. and smiles are much easier to both receive and give.
Colors play a huge role in our lives as well, much more than people give credit for. The colors we choose can literally give us energy or take it away, it can stir passion, or create depression. Of course color is a highly personal aspect, but we do know a few things about colors and our culture. Having bright colours in a bedroom can cause sleep issues, while having a home that is painted in only dark colors can feel gloomy and small. However of course, having say 1 black wall like I had in my Bangkok home, can add an element of stability and depth, and using strategic black pain in areas like reading rooms is now popular and is said to be the "it trending colour" for 2018. Yellow is another color that I have
personally fallen in love with. Yellow is often being used now in areas that you want to feel energized in, rooms that you need to be on the ball, and want to be at your best. I personally use it in my podcast, and office areas. Some have said that our brain connects yellow to the sun, and I have to say I agree, it also works very well in kitchens, where I have a bright yellow floor that really bounced the sunlight from my sunlight. I wont go through all the colors obviously, but I do think that red is another interesting colour. Red is often though of as an "aggravation color" and I'm pretty sure it tens to be avoided in psychiatric hospitals, but red is a very powerful color, and a little can go a long way. I fact in traditional Chinese red is a representation of the fire element; a power, lucky and passion color, traditional Feng Shui tells us to paint our front door red, and of course we all know about women and the little red dress, Lady in Red come to mind?
And of course red is also a popular color for dresses at events like the Oscars for grabbing attention. In general, for rooms we want to relax in, like bedrooms, mediation areas, and living rooms, we want more earth toned, pastels, and in energy ares like offices, kids play areas, dining rooms and kitchens we want more vibrant colors to boost creativity, productivity, energy and even metabolism and appetite.
Left: Gal Gadot rocks a "power" red dress at the Wonder Woman premier.
Odour is another powerful aspect of creating good Qi. This should make very good common sense after all. Do you like the smell of a used toilet? Garbage? Diapers? No? Good. Now how about flowers? Pine or Citrus? Yes? There you go! Bad Qi, and good Qi.
However, science and tradition can also help us with more than just "no bad smells". Our nose is interestingly a powerful tool in memorization and thought processes. In fact the sense of smell (olfactory processes) can activate long lost memories and move/develop emotions and is one of the most powerful ways to induce long lost memories. Odours as I said are highly interconnected to emotions, and even hold symbolism, and this has developed the entire field of aromatherapy (and also chemical cleaning products, more on the dangers of that below) and even is now being looked at in the immunity protocols in medicine. Citrus and grapefruit smells can create energy, peppermint is even used in high end athletics to help athletes hit PR's and conditioning peaks, while scents like lavender are used to relax bedrooms and massage rooms. Scents can be used to get rid of headaches, sinus and breathing issues (eucalyptus in the steam sauna) and even body pains, and some interesting research is being done on the scents of pine trees to even boost white blood cell counts to increase immunity. The smell of lemon and pine is also used in many cleaning products as it represents cleanliness and hygiene, great examples of this are Pine Sol and Sunlight detergents. The use of a essential oil diffuser or potpourri are a great natural scenting idea.
Clear the Clutters: Physical & Digital.
Clutter is another huge aspect in developing good Qi. However, I want to give it its own heading, as its more of a psychological aspect of Qi than physical. While it is true that too much clutter can literally cause odours to build, create air flow restrictions and prevent light from entering, in many ways it is more a psychological aspect. Clutter can cause us to lose focus, it can cause us to focus on the wrong things, and it can cause us to avoid areas of our homes that we shouldn't. Every part of your home is important, and needs to be maximized, not ignored.
Research has proven that when we have a cluttery desk is slows productivity by sending distraction signals to the brain. Even digital clutter like useless apps on our phone, too many folders on our desktop. Studies have also show us that when we have too much "junk" in our homes we can begin to feel boxed in, and aggravated, and we literally start to see our homes as our enemy instead of your ally. Mental clutter is now even being looked at as a large factor in age related memory loss.
To really simplify this idea have you ever had a bunch of appliances or AV equipment? All those wires everywhere? Tied in knots, bunched up, running up your wall. Annoying isn't it? Personally I can't stand messy wires all over the place. To me, messy wires is a major distraction and mental annoyance that throws off my ability to relax.
As we can see, Qi is not just the physical aspects but our metal flow as well, we avoid this area or that area, or we just stuck in cluttered places, or we just can't focus, all of this is inefficiencies in Qi.
Create Areas To Their Maximum Potential
Now, let's move on to some real aspects we can did into to improve the Qi, and over all efficiency, relevance and QOL of our homes.
Kitchen - The kitchen is our nourishment center, it is the place that serves to energize us, and is the key location for health development. The kitchen needs to be clean, bright, and needs to be a place that makes us want to eat healthy and fresh. Personally I prefer to use all glass bottles that allow you to see the foods, and setting dry foods like pasta, quinoa, black rice, coffee and couscous on the windowsil in clear view. A fruit bowl to remind you to eat your fruit is great too, and I also place my fridge free vegetables and fruits like yams, avocados, oranges and apples on top of the jars.
In the fridge, be sure to never hide foods behind other foods, and keep the crispers set to the appropriate humidity levels for the foods you keep in them. Also, be sure to not keep fruits and vegetables in the same crisper, the gases release from fruit can make vegetable go bad faster. Also keep in mind this saying "the crisper is the coffin of fresh foods" as they are often left in their until they rot.
Growing fresh foods in small pots or trays can also liven up the nutrition and energy, herbs and sprouts are both great living indoor options.
As far as food selection goes, keep foods low refined to no refined, make sure expiration dates are followed, and try to keep foods high in nutrition, low in calories. Use fresh monounsaturated oils in dark glass bottles, and use a very good water filter and remember to remineralize the water after. I also personally love to use a water infuser, and find my mint/cucumber booster I fell in love with in Indonesia always brings me back to my days living there.
Finally make sure you're using healthy pots and pans made from stainless steel, cast iron, copper or ceramic-copper mixes, and storing foods in glassware.
Bedroom - The bedroom is meant or 2 things, sleeping and relations, and it should be kept a such. Colors should be relaxing, pastels, and soft whites, I like to use blue light free lights or even red lights (see below). No TV or electronics. For scents, I suggest lavender, sweet marjoram or rose essential oils. You can also use herbal sleep pillows (a traditional dating back centuries to ward off evil, promote good sleep and health).
Social Area- A healthy social area is a great way to interact with friends and neighbours. Studies have shown that close relationships, interacting with positive and supporting people, and your community is the #1 key to a long and high quality life. To develop this make sure you have seating for company, and interesting things to draw attention and create conversation. Make sure the area has great light, and great flow, to make conversations energized and engaging. Feng Shui also suggests the use of round furniture, and I like it as it places everyone in the same equal position of conversation, similar to the Knights of the Round Table story, where everyones ideas and thoughts were considered equal to the king.
Keep artwork positive and comfortable, violent, grim , depressing or graphic art can throw people off, and cause dissonance or discomfort in the room. Keeping things like up to date or interesting books and knick knacks guest can flip through or handle is a good idea. In Feng Shui the social area is also the fame and reputation area, and the use of red or fire elements and symbols of success and community outstanding are good focal points.
Relaxation - Depending on your home, the above Social Area is also your living room and the center of non sleep relaxation. However the overall vibe of most of the home has to be escape and recovery. You can also set up a separate relaxation area for reading or just sitting back with a large glass of wine, tea or craft beer. The use of soft colours and earth tones and elements can help. Stone, clay and natural materials.
Work, Inspiration & Passion - Having a home that inspires you to improve your life and follow your passions is very important. In your office or work area keep the colors bright and vibrant, and keep things around that inspire you and push you forward. In my office I keep my podcast area set up to get me excited to record, in my gym I keep images that inspire me to greater physical heights. Keep symbols of past success in sight, certificates, diplomas, awards, and other signs of a job well done. i also am a big believer in vision bards and in-sight personal goal notes. In traditional Feng Shui it is recommended to write your goals on paper and place into envelopes and placed under things like plants. I prefer to use the red paper as they stick out, but I like to keep them in clear sight, no different then when I help a client with weight loss.
Clarity - In traditional Indian Vaastu the Prayer Area is the most important area in the house, taking the center of the house. However, we don't need to think of this area as a prayer area, but an area to focus on your spiritual side, reflection, and mindfulness is very needed. We live in a very go-go-go culture where big screen TV's, 9.1 surround stereos, and SMART speakers are taking center stage, so the need for at least a small sliver of calmness is needed, and not in the sleeping sense, but in the stress reduction and focusing way. I like a small meditation area using calming symbols, and traditional decor. Relaxing colors, a couple pieces of nice artwork, a small fountain, a mini-zen garden, and a traditional Mysore yoga mat and Zabuton and Zafu. I also showcase my Indian flute, meditation books and wall pyramid I picked up while spending time at Pyramid Valley mediation center in India.
Create Movement Focused Living
One of the key reasons why we are getting less healthy is that our lives are becoming lazier and more automated, from moving walkways in airports, to escalators, to sitting in cars and chairs, we are less physically active then ever. Now one of the BIGGEST mistakes we make in the health industry is giving the public the idea that going to the gym for 30 - 60 minutes can some how erase all this sitting and inactivity. It really does not. For more on this feel free to look back over my many blogs on how little we move, and how our health is paying the price.
So, some simple solutions (again I have lots of blogs on this) is to get more movement into your home and office. I wont spend a lot of time covering these in detail as they can be found here https://www.roralexander.com/blog/design-you-health-the-m%C5%ABv-home
But to make a long story short, try to develop areas that promote movement, using a Japanese dining table, a low bed, a standing kitchen table, design a home stretching and workout area, a squat stool, a squatty potty, a squat/sit/stand office table, or use something like bean bags, meditation chairs, Swiss balls and Zabuton's for sitting on. You can also take a walk once or twice a day, and do some yard gardening.
Boost Invisible Health: Chemical & Electronic
One thing that gets ignored often is 'invisible" elements that can affect our health. I call them invisible as these are not large or visible and are either microscopic particles or even just energy waves. These come in 2 kinds, chemical toxins and electronic toxins. While these are small, they can seriously disrupt your endocrine system affecting various hormones leading to increases in risks such as cancers, Leukemia, skin, cognitive, headaches, children's attention spans, sex hormones, breathing issues and much more.
These chemicals are unfortunately everywhere, and are a fact of modern life, but they can also be reduced significantly, and often even save us money in many cases.
We can reduce plastics by using glass containers and tupperware.
Use natural cleaning products like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils, or natural soaps for washing dishes. Avoid anti-bacterial products.
Avoid any products that use the word 'parfum' or 'perfume' in products. These are always mad made chemicals.
Get rid of Teflon which has been show to create high levels of carcinogens for non-toxic pots and pans made from ceramic, copper, cast iron or stainless steel.
Use natural Castile soaps like Dr. Bronner's or handmade soaps (make sure to read label as hand made does not in ANY WAY mean healthy in many cases).
Use natural moisturizers, and skin care products. Also use natural sun screens as most brand ones are carcinogenic.
For soft goods like clothing, towels, and carpets try to use natural wools and cottons with natural or no colorings.
Leave your shoes outside.
Use a number of air cleaning plants (top 9 by NASA).
Use a quality True Hepa air filter.
Avoid foods with artificial colorings and use products made with natural colorings like beets, tumeric, etc. Bright colors like florescent greens, blues and yellows just aren't great for you, and some colorings have been linked to hyperactivity in children.
Another kind of pollution that has received a lot of attention in higher levels of health discussions but has yet to leak down to the general public or even moderate health discussions is the ideas of digital or electronic pollution.
Here is an interesting article that highlights many of my points from below: http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/earthwatch-dirty-electricity/
Let's First Talk Lights:
Blue Light: The first kind of electronic pollution I want to discuss is blue light, this is the light spectrum emitted from our screens, LED light bulbs. Until the invention of the lightbulb humans only had 2 forms of light; sun and fire, and fire as well as the setting sun is low in the blue and green spectrums and high in red and orange. This is important to know as blue light basically excites the brain causing it to wake up, while red has no effect. This lack of effect with red light means that melatonin, the get sleepy hormone has a chance to build naturally, ensuring a good night sleep. However, melatonin does a lot more than helping us sleep, it has also been shown to be a potent cancer fighter, while a lack of it can the repair processes of DNA at the cellular level. Lack of sleep is also now being strongly suggested to be a possible leading cause of Alzheimers and other cognitive disorders later in life. Too little sleep has also been linked to higher risks of weight gain, muscle loss, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mood disorders. In fact the Night Shift/Cancer connection has lead the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2007 to classify shift work that disrupts circadian rhythm as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
CFL Lights. You probably have these in your home now, the coiled energy saving lights that are all so common now a days. The problem with these is they contain an average 5mg of mercury which if broken can be released into your home. Some studies have also said that other chemicals found in CFL bulbs including Phenol, Styrene and Napthalene can be cancer promoting agents for people with a genetic predisposition to cancer. CFL lights are also more prone to 'dirty electicity' (see below). So to be safe(r), just switch to LED bulbs which is somewhat better for the environment (they have been sadly found to contain high levels of lead) , and aesthetic lighting. And even better then that, consider using incandescent bulbs which are by far better for your health.
Now Let's Talk Fields & Waves
Electro Magnetic Fields
In our modern life we have 4 main types of electronic pollution (excluding light) and they are Radio Waves, Electrical Fields, Magnetic Fields and what's called Dirty electricity
Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR): This type of pollution we need be aware of is RF waves as found in cel phones, cordless phones, laptops and wifi. Now before I begin, I do want to point out that both cel phones and wifi are similar but the evidences on their dangers are somewhat different. There seems to be a great deal of evidence that close use of cel phones, cordless phones and laptops on your lap may have a stronger chance of causing DNA damage than wifi signals in your home. This is because of the strength and proximity of the devices, where wifi carries a very low level signal.
Saying this however, there is still a great deal of controversy around wifi and leading doctors are telling us there "may be cause for concern" as we learn more about the long term use. The problem seems to be studies are all over the place, some show very serious health risks, others show none. Interestingly though a 2016 study published in the journal Endocrine associated high levels of Wi-Fi and mobile phone exposure to hormonal shifts and oxidative stress, which could lead to cancer or brain diseases.
So should we try to hide away from wifi? Probably not yet, BUT we should try to minimize our exposure and proximity, use a hardwire landline or wired earphones when possible, and try to not sleep with your phone beside the bed, or even turn it off and the router off at night.
Magnetic Fields (MF) are caused by many devices in your home that have motors, like blenders, microwaves, refrigerators, etc. And strong magnetic fields can cause cognitive issues, and in some cases have even been linked to cancer risks in high field areas such as proximity to power lines.
Gov.Uk website - The results of some studies of human populations have suggested that there may be an increase in risk of childhood leukaemia at higher than usual magnetic field exposures in homes, some of which are near to large power lines. Studies have also looked at whether exposure is linked to the risk of other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Although there have been some results suggesting a link, the overall balance of evidence is towards no effect and much weaker than that for childhood leukaemia.
However, the most pressing evidence seems to point at moderate level MFs being able to reduce the onset of melatonin (similar to the blue lights above).
Dirty Electricity - DE is caused by many means, but to put it simply, it is changes or spikes in electrical currents from devices that use it. A great example is a dimmer switch for lighting. The dimmer creates different amount of current need for the bulb, causing the excess energy to be dispersed into the room. Other things that can create excess dirty electricity is energy efficient lights and appliances, and by high energy power lines outside handling large amounts of current.
The above is not to get your scared to move into the country and live off fire and well water, but is to just remind you how modern life has created some issues that we didn't have to deal with just a hundred years ago. So now that we know about these 4, what can we do to reduce our exposure?
1. As far a blue light goes this is one of the easiest things to tackle as there are a few options. You can use blue blocking glasses after 6pm to help reduce your BL exposure. You can also make sure to use programs like Iris or iFlux on your laptop/desktop, and Night Shift on your iPhone.
2. For indoor lighting there are a few companies offering blue light reduced bulbs such as GE Align bulbs, or you can even have some special lamps with red incandescent light bulbs.
3. To keep it really simple, you can also just turn off your lights as the sun goes down and set your TV to a darker display setting.
Wifi Reduction - Let's be honest, wifi is a huge part of life. But we should still be aware of its potential issues.
1. You can use your Landline to hook up your computers.
2. Turn off your wifi router when you go to bed.
3. Try to not hold the phone to your head, or use Bluetooth earphones. Try to use the speaker option and wired headphones.
4. Use wired speakers in your home, not wireless.
5. Don't sleep with your phone beside your head, and if you do, use airplane mode to turn off all signal receiving.
Magnetic Reduction - For this issue there are special meters you can get, but let's be honest, you're not going to do that. Instead let's just try to follow some simple rules.
1. Keep your bed at least 8 -10 inches from walls (wiring) and also be sure to have beds and chairs far from large appliance. The bed is probably the most important aspect, keep it away from any potential electricity.
2. Unplug appliances when not in use.
Dirty Electricity Reduction
1. Avoid dimmer switches and CFL light bulbs and even LED's, try using the old school incandescent bulbs. Also, avoid purchasing "energy saving devices".
2. Use an analog meter on your home, not the newer smart meters.
3. Unplug appliances that you don't use often, and plug in when needed. Things like toasters, blenders, stereos, etc.
4. You can also also look into a DE Filter such as those by Greenwave.
Himalayan Rock Lamps
I am very happy to see that these are now appearing EVERYWHERE! They are a great addition to a healthy holistic home.
There has also been some suggestion that the use of Himalayan Crystal Rock Lamps can help to increase the negative ions in the air, which can counteract some of the e-pollution in your home which cause large build ups of positive ions. They can also help cut down on humidity by absorbing water in the air. Keep in mind, its unlikely 1 alone will do much,but a great spot to place it is near your wifi router, and one in your bedroom (the pink light in blue light free too, so use as night light sources). I suggest one in each room, and make sure to use large ones (10 pounds or over) in large rooms.
There you have it, the home is the #1 important place to build and protect your health. I hope you will take some of these ideas to heart and work on improving your home in many ways.