Soothe: Creating Calm in Every Day Life

In an excerpt from his new book, award-winning pianist and songwriter Jim Brickman, known for his peaceful, inspiring music, shares what he learned when he sought calm beyond the keyboard.

Have you ever noticed that when you walk into a spa, you feel the tension begin to melt away before you even have a treatment?

You’re likely being cloaked in a preplanned double whammy of beautiful music and calming scents upon entering.

But there is actually much more at work here because spas make sure that their entry points are designed to make you leave your regular life literally at the door.

Focus on the entrance. Of course many of us who live in apartments or have small homes can’t exactly build a flowering pathway to the front door. Perhaps you can’t have an archway with roses blooming overhead or the perfect Japanese rock garden as your bridge between the stress of the outside world and your home. But you can look at the entrance of your home and make a few great changes. This might include a hanging plant or a fancy, colorful welcome mat. Or maybe you could buy a few big pots and plant season­al flowers or other foliage at your door—a grouping of Shasta daisies in the summer, a big pot of marigolds in the fall. Ideally, the flowers should be in soothing colors such as pale yel­low, lilac, and pale pink.

Nix clutter. Do you have clutter leading the way from your car to your door? This is common when people have to go through their garage to get into the house. You need to clean up the area. Again, the last thing you need to see is your home in shambles the minute you pull up. Here are a few tips:

  • Designate an area for keeping all of your athletic equipment.
  • You don’t need to wade through a sea of bikes and balls to reach the front door.
  • Have a major garage- cleaning day. Everything that’s not in a cabinet or put away in a box or plastic container must go.
  • Consider renting a storage facility as a way to reduce the anxiety of seeing all this clutter.
  • If you truly have too much stuff and have a backyard, you can look into getting a shed.
  • Think about painting the garage interior a calming color like yellow and sealing the floor for easy cleaning. Imagine pulling into an organized garage that looks clean and polished. Suddenly, home becomes more of an oasis than a form of a giant to-do list.

Clean up your dump area. Many of us step inside and go right to “the dump”—that table, chair, or special stair that gets to hold your mail, the newspaper, a briefcase or computer case, a purse, and that empty salad container you used at lunch. Sure, sure, you’re just using this spot as a pit stop, and you’ll clean it up once you make sure everyone is home and alive. Stop in the name of soothing! With that area you indicate that the min­ute you walk into your home, there should be chaos. And put your shoes back on your feet. Clean up that dump area (or don’t create one in the first place).

A quick fix-it tip: have one basket for all the junk. It should be cleaned out daily and set inside a closet so you don’t have to look at it piling up. It shouldn’t be a huge basket, either, as you are not starting a Goodwill collection here but are instead just putting a few things in limbo while you tend to your life. You have to clean out the basket before it overflows, which will keep you disciplined. And this routine also helps you not trip over a zillion things and fall down the stairs.

Invest in mood-enhanc­ing lighting that is not too bright or too dark. Don’t go for a big light overhead but instead choose a smaller one that casts a subtle glow. You want your home to look warm and welcoming, not like you’re walking into the DMV. Set a dimmer switch timer to keep your light dim when you return at night but make it a bit brighter for the day.

Remind you of…you. If you have the room, buy a small table for your entryway and place on it framed pictures of great vacations or beloved family members. You want to have a clear line between work and home. Home should re­mind you of loved ones and special times.

Adapted from Soothe by Jim Brickman. Copyright © 2015 by Jim Brickman. Re­printed with permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.


 

Jim Brickman is recognized as the best-selling solo pianist of our time, selling more than 7 million albums worldwide. Since his debut release No Words in 1994, he has received two Grammy nods, two Society of European Stage Au­thors and Composers “Songwriter of the Year” awards, the coveted Gospel Music Association Dove Award, and four certified gold albums by the Recording Industry Association of America: By Heart, Picture This, The Gift, and Desti­ny. Brickman hosts Your Weekend with Jim Brickman, a weekly radio show, and is a strong supporter of the Public Broadcasting Service, starring in five concert TV specials for the network. He is the author of two motivational books: Simple Things and Love Notes.


 

Prescribed Reading

Award-winning pianist and songwrit­er Jim Brickman knows a thing or two about the benefit of creating calm. Fans of his contemporary piano solos speak to the power of his composi­tions to invite feelings of peace and relaxation, inspiration, and harmony into their daily—often chaotic—lives. Seeing the clear benefit of introduc­ing sacred space into daily life, and recognizing his own need for peace and serenity, Brickman was inspired to write Soothe: How to Find Calm amid Everyday Chaos (Rodale Books, 2015; $21.99).

The book offers easy, practical steps for creating pockets of peace in daily life, from tips to help you start your day in a less stressful way to methods for soothing yourself to sleep at night. Soothe includes Brick­man’s own experiences (and those of others on the same journey) in in­corporating these strategies; and his friendly, no-nonsense tone through­out acknowledges the challenge in making these adjustments and speaks encouragingly to the clear benefit he has seen in his own life. By providing suggestions and manageable solu­tions to many of the issues that create chronic stress, Brickman offers read­ers a helpful guide to inspiring well­ness and accessing peace.